Middle Park boys lose squeaker to Meeker | SkyHiNews.com

Middle Park boys lose squeaker to Meeker

Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News

Contesting it right down the final second of play, Middle Park High’s boys basketball team fell 56-53 to Meeker in Saturday’s final game of the High Country Tournament held in Granby.

The loss to Meeker came after the Panthers earned a solid win over the West Grand High’s Mustangs. In that Thursday night game, Middle Park won 62-48.

“Saturday’s game was disappointing,” said coach Brian Reynolds. “We played lethargically. It was definitely not one of the better games that we’ve played.”

In the first quarter, both teams went basket for basket with Middle Park coming out on top 19-17 after eight minutes of play. But Meeker started to gain the edge in the second quarter and reached halftime holding a 33-29 lead.

The Panthers pushed themselves to tie the score at 39 points apiece by the end of the third quarter. As the fourth quarter began, Meeker surged back into the lead, forcing Middle Park to make another comeback attempt.

“We finally tied them up 53-53 with 50 seconds left on the clock,” Reynolds said. “At 23 seconds, I called for a timeout and we decided to go for a three-point play. We got a good look at the basket, but didn’t make it. Meeker then got the ball and scored a basket and followed it by making a free throw. We missed some valuable opportunities in that game.”

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Reynolds said that while Meeker is a strong team, it was Middle Park’s sluggish play that was the main culprit in the loss.

“Meeker did what it does best, which is to slow us down from what we do best, which is the fast break,” he said. “By and large, we were behind four to six points for much of the game.”

While not using it as an excuse, Reynolds said a reason for the Panther varsity’s loss of tempo in Saturday’s game may have been the result of playing their own junior varsity on Friday.

“We deliberately played slower and did not play our usual game against our JVs,” he said. “That lethargic mindset carried over to Saturday and we didn’t really take it to Meeker like we should have.”

Another factor in the loss was a letdown on defense. Kody Mourer, who has become a key player in the team’s defensive strategy this season, has been sidelined after fracturing his kneecap recently.

“We were missing Kody’s valuable services on defense and couldn’t shut down Meeker’s best player,” Reynolds said.

While the loss was disappointing, Reynolds said it did have a positive aspect. It was the first time this season that the team has trailed seriously in a game which forced the Panthers to make comebacks in tough situations.

“We demonstrated that we can come back,” he said. “Even if we’re having an off night, we can still win if we seize those opportunities.”

In the team’s individual scoring, Mike Schmidt led with 17 points, followed by Ian Sutton with 11 and Zilvinas Sutkus with 10. Contributing to the points total was Jordan Reynolds with seven, Zane Bickler with four, and Justin Cisneros and Sam Damon with two points each.

Coach Reynolds had special praise for Schmidt’s overall performance.

“In the last three or four games, Mike has really stepped up,” he said. “Against Meeker, he not only scored 17 points, but was a real rebounding force for us, earning 14, which was a season high. He’s a double-double ” double digits in both points and rebounds. He really played strong for us on the inside and kept his foul count down to only one in Saturday’s game.”

One other positive aspect to Saturday’s game that Reynolds wanted to mention was the team’s reduction in turnovers.

“In our first game this season, we did badly and gave up 28 turnovers,” he said. “In the last few games, we’ve reduced them to 10 to 12, with 11 in the Meeker game. If we keep them down, we’ll have a lot of success this season.”

The team is now on holiday break and will return to action January 11 in an away game against Sheridan.

“We should match up well against Sheridan,” Reynolds said. “That game will help get us ready for our first Metro League games.”

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