Panthers basketball off to a strong start
Basketball season is in full swing across Colorado and Middle Park’s lady Panthers have already been busy on the hardwood, amassing a 4-2 record before heading into winter break.
Middle Park High School’s lady Panthers basketball squad kicked off the 2018 – 19 season in mid-November when the team began holding formal practice sessions. So far the girls from East Grand have notched a 4-2 record, defeating Summit, Bayfield and Clear Creek over the first few weeks of the season. The team’s most recent win, against county rivals the West Grand lady Mustangs, came on the last day of school before the start of Christmas break.
While Middle Park’s girls are sporting a solid early season record the team has lost two tough games so far, against Grand Valley and SkyView Academy. Middle Park’s Head Coach for the girls basketball team is Mike Reigan who has served as head coach for the team for the past four seasons. Reigan, who also serves as Athletic Director for East Grand School District, praised the effort the girls from Middle Park have put in so far this year, but noted there was still room for growth.
“The girls always play very, very hard,” Reigan said. “I have never questioned their intensity or their effort. We just have to get a little smarter. Little things can make a huge difference and we still need to work on some of those little things. But my girls are working hard and I am very proud of them.”
This year’s entire girls basketball team consists of roughly 40 players, which Reigan called the largest team with which he has ever worked. Reigan noted that the Panther’s have experienced large influxes of freshman players over the past few years and that the team is relatively young and is heavily weighted towards underclassmen.
The size of the team has allowed the Panthers to field three separate squads, the varsity, junior varsity and c-team. Unfortunately for the Panthers few other schools at the 3A level can match their participation numbers and as such the team has scheduled inter-squad games to ensure all the young ladies on the team get the opportunity to compete.
“It is a nice problem to have,” Regian said with a chuckle. “It is almost an embarrassment of riches.”
The team’s varsity squad is made up of 11 girls including six seniors, one junior and four sophomores. All six of the senior girls on the squad this year have previously competed on the varsity squad.
According to Reigan the lady Panthers have made it to the state 3A girls basketball playoffs every year for the last four years. He added he hopes to extend that streak again this year. Last year the Panthers made it to the first round of the state playoffs, the round of 32, before losing their bid for a championship.
“Last year was a successful season,” Reigan said. “We have a lot of people returning and we hope to be as successful this year. I want to see them rise to the occasion and meet their own expectations. I am just a coach. It is really their team and their expectations. I want to see them have all the success they want and think they deserve.”
The Panthers have only faced teams outside the Frontier League so far this year but that will change with their first game after returning from Christmas break. The Panthers’ first league game of the season is scheduled for Jan. 8 when Middle Park will take to the hardwood against the Jefferson lady Saints down in Edgewater. Reigan highlighted upcoming games against Bennett, on Jan. 24, and The Academy, on Jan. 30, as major league games for the Panther girls. He further highlighted upcoming games against Moffat County, on Feb. 8, and St. Mary’s Academy, on Feb. 9, as two significant non-league games on the Panther’s scheduled still this season.
Reigan is getting help with coaching duties this season from a group of three district employees who all work at Granby Elementary School. Granby Elementary fifth grade teacher Brandon Young has returned once again as one of Reigan’s assistance coaches. Young has served as an assistance coach for the girl’s basketball team since Reigan took over head coaching duties four seasons ago. Also assisting this year is Granby Elementary science teacher Sara Rector and Granby Elementary Paraprofessional, and former varsity starter for the Panthers, Claire Luque.
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