PHS boys’ qualify for second straight state tournament

Posted 3/7/23

For the second year in a row the Powell Panther boys’ basketball team will be making the trip to Casper to compete for a state title — earning a spot after placing third by defeating …

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PHS boys’ qualify for second straight state tournament


For the second year in a row the Powell Panther boys’ basketball team will be making the trip to Casper to compete for a state title — earning a spot after placing third by defeating Pinedale 66-57, losing to Lyman 59-47, defeating Lander 63-39 and beating Lovell 61-30.



For the third time this season the Panthers (17-8) matched up with the Wranglers (11-13) with the hopes of taking the season series 2-1.

Both teams came out firing in the first quarter, with Pinedale holding a slight edge up 16-15.

Pinedale led by as many as six in the second quarter, but the two teams continued to battle with neither able to gain a significant advantage in the first half.

A late run by Powell helped take the lead late in the half, leading 34-33.

Both teams ramped up defensive pressure early in the second half, with Powell tying the contest at 38 after a Trey Stenerson basket midway through the third quarter.

Brock Johnson and Gunnar Erickson continued to attack for the Panthers, helping Powell grow the lead out late in the third quarter and take a 49-40 lead into the fourth.

“Our defensive pressure was pretty good the entire contest, but we were a lot better in the second half of forcing Pinedale off their spots and getting a little closer on our closeouts,” coach Mike Heny said. “Pinedale has really good shooters and our game plan is to just keep forcing them to take tough, contested shots and try to bring down their effectiveness from the perimeter.”

Powell grew the lead out to double digits in the fourth quarter, with defensive pressure helping lead the Wranglers to more difficult shots down the court each possession.

The Panther offense was enough to pull away down the stretch, finishing 7-10 from the free throw line to help Powell finish with a 66-57 victory.

Johnson led the way with 20 and Erickson finished with 19 for the Panthers.



After the victory Thursday the Panthers moved into the semifinals against the Eagles (17-7) with a championship berth on the line.

Like Thursday both teams came out strong offensively, with the contest tied at 10 just over midway through the first quarter after a Jace Hyde jumper.

Unfortunately for Powell, Johnson picked up his second foul with a couple minutes remaining in the first quarter.

“Lyman played really well in the semifinal and with Brock getting into early foul trouble, he wasn’t able to be as aggressive on either end of the floor,” Heny said. “We weren’t able to contain [Braydon] Bradshaw very well and he was able to dominate the game at times.”

Despite Johnson going to the bench the remainder of the first quarter, the Panthers remained close down 16-15 after the first quarter.

Lyman started the second quarter strong, gaining more momentum after a dunk by Bradshaw helped push the lead out to seven just two minutes into the quarter.

Powell responded over the next two minutes, cutting the lead back down to one after an Erickson 3-pointer.

Unfortunately for Powell, Johnson picked up his third foul on a hustle play, sending him to the bench for the rest of the half with three minutes left.

Lyman extended its lead back out, leading 28-24 at the half.

Another Erickson 3-pointer opened up the second half, as the Panthers tried to find a way to take the lead.

Lyman answered, and pushed its advantage out to double digits midway through the quarter up 41-31.

“Gunnar played great and led us with 21, but we couldn’t score consistently in the second half, which allowed Lyman to pull away from us down the stretch,” Heny said. “It was a tough environment and was essentially a home game for Lyman with as many fans as they had in that gym. Our kids fought like crazy but we just came up short.”

Powell was unable to find an answer in the second half, resulting in a 59-47 loss.



After the loss Friday night the Panthers turned around to Saturday, matching up with a familiar foe in Lander (14-10) for the fourth time this season.

“The elimination game is really tough for the loser of the semifinal, and sometimes you are worried the kids won’t be ready mentally to play at their best,” Heny said. “However, we came out with a purpose and executed on both ends of the floor as well as we have all season.”

Against Lander the Panthers have struggled to score against the Tiger’s zone defense, but Powell came out firing.

Early in the game the Panthers found the gaps in the Tiger press and zone, and were hitting from 3-point range.

Powell led only 6-3 midway through the quarter, but a quick seven point burst gave Powell control of the game up 13-5.

“Brock took the game over in the first quarter offensively, and then everyone got going as well,” Heny said.

The Panthers took control from that point forward, holding the Tigers scoreless for nearly six minutes in the second quarter and quickly extended the lead out to more than 20 points.

Powell continued to fluster the Tigers, and took a 28-9 lead into the locker room.

“Every kid made plays on both ends and we made it difficult for Lander to get good shots,” Heny said. “With Trey in foul trouble, Cade [Queen] and Jhett [Schwahn] both did an amazing job of guarding Lander’s leading scorer and they really frustrated him the entire contest.”

Powell continued its strong first half play, breaking away from the Tigers and finishing with a 63-39 victory.

“Overall, it was a great team effort and possibly our most complete game of the season,” Heny said. 

Johnson led Powell with 26 points, alongside Erickson who finished with 14.



With their place booked to the state tournament, the Panthers finished off the weekend with the late game on Saturday, taking on Lovell (11-13) in the third place game.

Already having their spot locked up Heny wanted the Panthers to come out strong and fast, after the Bulldogs had competed in a double overtime game the night prior.

Powell did just that, establishing an early lead over the Bulldogs and never looked back, taking a 16-11 lead into the second quarter.

Powell grew the lead in the second, holding Lovell to seven points the entire second quarter and growing the lead out to 32-18 at halftime.

In the second half the Panthers continued to pour it on, and ran away with a 61-30 victory over Lovell.

“We took advantage of some favorable matchups and Brock and Gunnar continued to play at a high level on both ends,” Heny said. “Trey was finally able to get going offensively as well and got into double figures in scoring as well.”

Johnson finished with 16, Erickson finished with 15 and Stenerson finished with 12 in the victory.



No. 3 seed Powell now makes its way down to Casper for the second year in a row, with an opening round matchup set with No. 2 seed Buffalo (14-9), a team the Panthers defeated in February 53-42 in Buffalo.

The Bison were without their best player, while the Panthers were without Marshall Lewis — something Heny knows will make this matchup different from the first time around.

“Buffalo will be a tough opening round game but we are confident if we can continue to build off of how we played this past weekend,” Heny said. “We still have room to grow on both ends so we will work this week on sharpening a few things up in our execution.”

That matchup is set for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff at the Ford Wyoming Center on Thursday.



Points Brock Johnson 20, Gunnar Erickson 19, Trey Stenerson 7, Cade Queen 6, Jhett Schwahn 5, Marshall Lewis 5, Alex Jordan 2, Jace Hyde 2



Points Gunnar Erickson 21, Brock Johnson 7, Jace Hyde 7, Trey Stenerson 6, Marshall Lewis 3, Cade Queen 3



Points Brock Johnson 26, Gunnar Erickson 14, Trey Stenerson 9, Jhett Schwahn 8, Evan Whitlock 4, Alex Jordan 2



Points Brock Johnson 16, Gunnar Erickson 15, Trey Stenerson 12, Jhett Schwahn 8, Cade Queen 6, Marshall Lewis 4

Full stats were not available before press time.