After a pair of frustrating losses to Pinedale and Big Piney the prior weekend, the Powell High School boys’ basketball team battled back into the win column Friday night, beating Thermopolis on the road 57-43.
PHS senior Carson Heinen, who missed last weekend’s games due to illness, returned in a big way against the Bobcats, posting a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, both team highs. Overall, 11 Panthers contributed at least a point on the stat sheet.
“With Carson [Heinen] back, it helped big-time,” said PHS head coach Chase Kistler. “We only shot 1-for-10 from the 3-point line, so we were dropping down and shooting more twos than the threes and at a higher percent. Almost everyone in my book got in and scored, so it was a great team win.”
It was Powell’s game from the start, as the Panthers (6-9 overall, 2-1 in Class 3A Northwest) jumped out to a 14-4 lead in the first quarter. Thermopolis (3-15 overall, 0-3 in 3A Northeast) was able to chip away in the second quarter, but still trailed 28-16 at the half. Kaelan Groves paced the Panthers with nine points in the first half, followed by six points off the bench by Mason Marchant.
The Panthers continued to play solid defense to start the second half, holding the Bobcats to just nine points in the third quarter. Heinen’s shots began falling and William Preator had a few timely steals as Powell pushed its lead to 19 points at one point.
Kistler emptied his bench in the fourth, while Thermopolis started to hit shots, outscoring Powell 18-14 in the final frame. But by then, the damage was done, and the Panthers were able to get their role players some valuable court time as they cruised to the 57-43 win.
“A win like this gets us back to the things we were doing well, gets us back on track [and] I would say, getting ready for this week,” when the Panthers will face Worland and Lander, Kistler said.
Along with Heinen’s double-double, the Panthers got 11 points from Groves, eight points from Marchant and six from Preator. Kain Baxter, Cameron Wentz and Jesse Brown finished with four points each. Marchant hit the team’s lone 3-pointer for the contest, and Groves shot 83 percent from the foul line, going 5-for-6.
Defensively, Kistler said his bigs did a great job defending dribble penetration, and getting tips and deflections.
“We just played a sound basketball game with the whole team,” he said. “And being able to play the younger guys helps in terms of building depth. It gets them playing at a higher level, just because the guys they’re going against on varsity are at a different speed.”
The Panthers host their 3A Northwest rivals Worland (8-8, 1-2) tonight (Tuesday) at 7 p.m., and will travel to Lander (15-4, 3-0) on Friday for another conference game at 7:30 p.m. Kistler said both teams rely heavily on creating turnovers, so protecting the ball will be key. Also key will be finding an answer for Worland’s Rudy Sanford, who had a big fourth quarter the last time these two teams played.
“We definitely have to stop the Sanford kid from dribble-penetrating and getting to the rim, because he was 7-for-7 in the fourth quarter the last time we played them in Worland,” Kistler said. “That was kind of their gameplan coming down the stretch, so we gotta keep him off the line.”