“We were able to get some steals at the defensive end and convert those into points,” Panther head coach Mike Heny said of the formula his team used to transform a two-point halftime advantage into a 39-30 lead with 2:06 remaining in the third period. “We actually missed a layup that would have put us ahead by 11 and then didn’t box out and they went down and got a 3-point play.”
That sequence was the start of a 13-0 Bulldog run that spanned the third and fourth quarters. Powell would not score again until 5:46 remained in the game and Lovell held its first lead since late in the first half.
“It was a few little things, like not taking care of the ball and not playing defense the way we had for most of the game,” said Heny of the run.
Powell was able to momentarily reclaim the lead on a 3-point bucket from Chase Partridge. Lovell answered Powell’s 46-45 lead with a 7-0 run and converted enough free throws down the stretch to hold off any Panther hopes of a late rally.
Partridge finished with a team-best 24 points in his first game of the season, but was upstaged by Lovell’s Jeff Lewis, who scored 30 for Lovell.
“We knew he was one of the best post players in 2A,” Heny said of Lewis. “We just let him get too deep on us and establish position, and once he gets the ball there, he’s tough to stop.”
As for his own top scorer, Heny couldn’t have asked for a much better performance.
“He really played within himself,” Heny said of Partridge’s performance. “He came in and didn’t try to do too much.
He just shot the ball well without forcing it up. It was nice to see him break out early.”
Defensively, the Panthers were sparked by seven steals from Zane Bushnell in the contest.
The Panthers’ stumble against top-ranked Lovell was just the first half of a murderer’s row weekend for the team.
On Saturday, Powell took the floor against the top-ranked team in Class 3A, falling 89-46 on the road at Buffalo.
“The constant pressure that Buffalo puts you under just wears you down,” said Heny. “They pressured us and it sped the game up. We handled it for about the first four minutes, but after that we tried to play too fast and do too much. Their pressure really dictated the tempo.”
Buffalo forced the Panthers into 33 turnovers in the contest, converting several of those into uncontested layups at the offensive end. The defensive onslaught limited Powell to just 17 first-half points.
“We need to take care of the ball better,” Heny said. “We can’t turn the ball over that much and expect good things to happen. We knew Buffalo would be tough, because those kids have played together for a lot of years. Now we know exactly what we need to do in order to be an elite team in 3A.”
With the losses against top-ranked foes, the Panther boys carry a 2-5 record into the holiday break. Not to be overlooked, however, is the fact that both of those wins came in the school’s only two 3A West conference games of the season.
“That’s going to be our focus from here forward,” said Heny. “We need to come out and defend the home floor in those conference games and go out and pick off as many road wins as we can so we can get a top seed at the regional tournament and give ourselves a shot at state at the end of the year.”
Powell begins 2011 with a four-game home stand. After playing just one home contest on the 2010 portion of the calendar, the Panthers will play seven of their first nine games at home to begin 2011. The streak begins as Mountain View and Lyman come to town on Jan. 7-8.
Lovell 55, Powell 50
Scoring: McArthur 9, Wise 2, Bushnell 7, Partridge 24, Beuster 8. Rebounds: Partridge 6. Assists: McArthur 4. Steals: Bushnell 7.
Buffalo 89, Powell 46
Scoring: McArthur 8, Wise 7, England 5, Partridge 16, Curtis 2, Beuster 8. Rebounds: Partridge 10. Assists: Bushnell and England 3. Steals: Partridge 2. Blocked shots: Partridge 2.