Head coach Chase Kistler said that during the first quarter — when Lovell jumped out to a 15-8 lead — the Panthers were “playing kind of nervous and playing too fast.”
The playing too fast equated to the team having trouble staying under control and turning the ball over too many times. Overall for the game, the Panthers had 20 turnovers.
“Once they kind of settled in that second and third quarter, we kind of hit a little bit of stride and we kind of calmed down and just played basketball and scored and played well defensively and offensively,” Kistler said.
In the second quarter, the Panthers outscored the Bulldogs 18-11 to tie the game up at 26 going into halftime.
In the third quarter, Powell outscored Lovell again 18-9 to take a 44-35 lead going into the final quarter of play.
The Panthers led the Bulldogs 52-44 with 1:25 remaining. But Lovell hit a 3-pointer to make it 52-47, then made another one with 24 seconds remaining to make it 54-50. After a timeout, the Bulldogs stole Powell’s attempt to inbound the ball and scored another basket. That made it 54-52 with 15 seconds remaining.
After another Lovell timeout, the Bulldogs again stole Powell’s inbound pass. This time, however, Powell fouled and sent a Bulldog to the free throw line.
The Bulldog was supposed to be shooting a one-and-one because of the number of Panther team fouls, however, the refs didn’t call it that way. So, after the first missed free throw — which should have been a live ball situation — it was called a dead ball.
Noticing the error, the scorer's table sounded the buzzer to let the officials know of the mistake.
Because it was a correctable error, the ball was then put into a jump ball situation — with the possession arrow and the ball going to Lovell with 11.3 seconds.
“It was an error, but it was the right call after the error was caught,” Kistler said.
Lovell inbounded the ball under its own basket, but missed its final shot, securing the 54-52 win for the Panthers.
“It definitely could have been a big error and cost us a lot more, but we ended up playing through it and doing what we needed to,” said Kistler of the last few seconds of the game, adding, “In all I was pretty happy with the outcome. It’s nice to be in those close games and be on the positive side of things.”
Regarding the turnovers at the end, Kistler said that “some of this is new waters for our players in a way.” By that, the coach meant the Panthers have been used to trailing and having to fight to come back, “always fighting back — so they’re just learning how to win.”
He added that the “best way to play defense at the end is a good offense and taking care of the ball. They just have to kind of calm down and make the smart play instead of the big play.”
Powell had four players score in double digits: Carson Heinen with 13, Kaelan Groves with 11 and Jace Smith and Zach Meredith with 10 each.
“Equal scoring opportunities for everyone,” said Kistler of the number of double-digit scorers. “I thought sharing the ball was good.”
Groves had four assists and Smith had three.
Kistler went on to say the team “took really good shots.”
For shot percentages, the Panthers shot 46 percent on field goals, 38 percent at the free throw line and 25 percent at the 3-point line.
Smith also had a double-double, adding 10 rebounds — seven defensive and three offensive — to go with his 10 points.
The Panthers are off for the winter break and will resume action at the Big Horn Basin Classic on Jan. 5 and 6.
An informal alumni basketball game will take place on Dec. 28 at 5 p.m.