Middle Park boys fall to Texas team in season-opener | SkyHiNews.com

Middle Park boys fall to Texas team in season-opener

by Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News

While it didn’t really count for much of anything, last weekend’s first game of the season proved to be a real eye-opener for Middle Park High’s boys basketball team.

Playing Saturday night on the court at Denver Lutheran, the Panthers took on an out-of-state team, Lutheran North of Houston, Texas.

In a hard-fought contest, the Panthers fell 70-51.

“We lost, but it wasn’t as bad as the score indicates,” said coach Brian Reynolds. “We had a strong first quarter but couldn’t sustain it.”

Middle Park shot out to a 19-13 lead in the first quarter, but then ran into trouble in the second. Few of their shots went through the hoop as the Texans counterattacked to take a 28-22 lead by halftime.

In the second half, Lutheran North built up a substantial lead and maintained it until the final buzzer.

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“After being up on them in the first quarter, we hit a big dry spell in the second quarter,” Reynolds said. “In the second half, it was our lack of conditioning that really hit us. We obviously need to improve that before our next games.”

Another major area of concern for Middle Park was in the number of turnovers committed. The Panthers suffered 28 against Lutheran North.

“That was a big a number as I’ve ever seen in a game,” Reynolds said. “Those turnovers definitely hurt us. Cutting down on turnovers will be a major emphasis in our practices and upcoming games.”

On the positive side, the Panthers were using a new zone offense, and it showed positive results.

“Lutheran North played a strong zone defense, but when they came out of it, we got some easy baskets,” Reynolds said. “We’d just added the zone offense a couple of days prior to the game, but it proved to be effective. Our players are excited about it.”

Middle Park’s offense was led in Saturday’s season opener by senior Zilvinas “Z” Sutkus, who racked up an impressive 26 points. He was the only Panther to get into double digits.

“Z really stepped up,” Reynolds said. “He hit everything from the inside, the outside and from the free-throw line.”

Commenting on the game, Sutkus said the team’s offense needs to be backed up with better defensive work.

“In the first quarter, we did OK, but I think we have got to do a better job on defense,” he said. “We did all right as a team for our first game, but we now know what we need to work on.”

Also receiving praise for their play in the season’s first game was Kody Mourer.

“Kody hit the boards the hardest for us,” Reynolds said. “At 5 feet, 11 inches, he’s our shortest player, but he really hustled and got some key rebounds. He earned six rebounds for the game.”

Jordan Reynolds hit a couple of three-pointers in the game. He earned a 33 percent scoring percentage.

Sam Damon also made a big contribution, earning 10 rebounds.

“Sam did a good job and we’re looking for even more from him in upcoming games as well as Mike Schmidt and Zane Bickler,” Reynolds said.

Having gotten their first game out of the way, the Panther hoopsters are setting their sights next on the annual Meeker Tournament. The eight-team competition starts Thursday and continues through Saturday.

“On Thursday, we get to play at 4:30 p.m. against the Hayden Tigers, who are a very competitive team,” Reynolds said. “In past years when we’ve played them, it’s always been a battle.”

In addition to Hayden, other Western Slope teams including Meeker, Mancos, Rangely and West Grand will be competing.

“It’s a great tournament because we get to see teams we don’t normally get to play,” Reynolds said. “During the season, we mostly play Metro League teams from the Denver area.”

In last year’s Meeker Tournament, Middle Park played in the championship game against Meeker but lost.

“Hopefully, we’ll get into the championship game again this year and we’ll win this time.”

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