The Powell High School boys’ basketball team charged through the first two rounds of the 3A State Basketball Tournament like a freight train, defying the odds to advance all the way to the state championship game.
But on Saturday afternoon, playing against Lander in the Casper Events Center, the train finally ran out of steam. The Tigers jumped out to a 15-6 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, besting their 3A Northwest Quadrant rivals for the fourth time this season, 58-40.
PHS head coach Chase Kistler said the loss will sting for a while, but won’t detract from what the Panthers accomplished this season.
“It wasn’t quite the finish we wanted, but our play at this tournament was still above and beyond what I expected and what I thought was going to happen,” Kistler said. “I’m proud of these guys and the way they fought.”
Sophomore Mason Marchant was the lone Panther in double digits in the contest, netting 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Senior William Preator closed out his Panther career with eight points to go along with seven rebounds of his own.
“We kept our hopes up the whole season, knowing we could do something special,” Preator said. “We beat the odds. No one believed in us, and we just stuck together as a family and as a team.”
Junior Jesse Brown finished with six points, while senior Kaelan Groves chipped in five. Landon Lengfelder sank a 3-pointer and Adrian Geller closed out Powell’s scoring with two points.
Looking for their first state title since 1998, the Panthers began the tournament with a dominating 68-39 win over Torrington on Thursday; they followed that with the upset of the 3A tournament, knocking off No. 1 Buffalo 66-64 Friday. While the championship game may not have had the Hollywood ending the team was hoping for, lasting memories were made just the same.
“We stuck together through all the bad times and the good times,” Preator said. “I’m just going to remember this group of guys for the rest of my life.”