The Powell High School boys’ basketball team welcomed a familiar foe to Panther Gym Tuesday, as the Panthers squared off against the Worland Warriors (8-8, 1-2) for the third time this …
The Powell High School boys’ basketball team welcomed a familiar foe to Panther Gym Tuesday, as the Panthers squared off against the Worland Warriors (8-8, 1-2) for the third time this season.
After splitting their first two meetings, Powell (6-9, 2-1) won the rubber match in impressive fashion, 50-35.
“It was a good effort. We kind of controlled the tempo of the game for four quarters and were able to dictate what we wanted to do out on that court, which was nice to see,” said PHS head coach Chase Kistler. “I really felt like scoring-wise, too, we shared the ball the best I’ve seen us do in a long time.”
The Panthers played hard on both ends of the floor, with a solid defensive effort led by Carson Heinen and Jesse Brown.
“I thought our defense was really spot-on,” Kistler said. “We contested almost all of their shots.”
The Panthers jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first half, but Worland countered with a 10-0 run of their own to get right back into the game. Powell went into the break clinging to a 24-23 advantage.
“It’s hard when you know a team so well, and they know you,” Kistler said. “They’re calling out things you’re doing, and you’re doing the same with them. It just makes it harder and harder to beat a team — aggressions get a little bit higher, along with anger and anxiety. All those things kind of build up because these kids know each other so well.”
The Panthers slowly pulled away in the second half. With a 39-33 lead in the fourth quarter, Powell went on an 11-2 run to finish out the 50-35 win.
Despite the 15-point cushion late in the game, Kistler said he was waiting for the other shoe to drop; Worland has the weapons to score a lot of points in a hurry — as they proved in the first half — and a lead is never safe.
“We were just one shot away from them hitting a big three and getting right back in the game,” he said. “I was just waiting for them to hit that big shot, but our guys maintained very well. That’s where the rebounding comes in big. They would put that shot up, and we’d only give them one chance at it before we were going the other way.”
Heinen once again led the charge for the Panthers with 14 points.
“I thought Carson Heinen played very well,” Kistler said. “He got big rebounds, and contributed quite a bit to the point category as well. But it was more his rebounds and his leadership, I thought that was huge for us.”
Kaelan Groves finished with 12 points, followed by Will Preator with eight and Mason Marchant with seven.
Kain Baxter provided a needed spark off the bench in the second half, scoring all five of his points in the third quarter.
“[Baxter] had a great run when he got in the game,” Kistler said. “Those kinds of minutes for us are huge, because it allows [the starters] to get a little break but we don’t stop or slow down. Everything just keeps going and moving forward.”
Though he didn’t score a point, Brown came up big on defense, shutting down Worland’s Rudy Sanford.
“[Brown] held the leading scorer in the conference to seven points,” Kistler said. “He’s our best defender, and it’s hard when you play that kind of defense for four quarters to get points. Your legs are just jello by the end of the game.”
The Panthers head to Lander this weekend to take on the 3A Northwest-leading Tigers, looking to avenge a 64-58 loss earlier this season. Kistler said with Powell winning their last two games, the Lander game takes on even more significance with the postseason on the horizon. With a couple of wins and some help, Powell has a shot at taking the No. 1 seed in the conference.
“Playing on their [Lander’s] home court is going to be hard, and they’re a good team, very athletic,” Kistler said. “We’ll just play our game and hope that we’re playing better team defense than they are, and see if we can pull a win off of them on their home court.”