Lady Panthers fall in first round of state tournament, 56-16 |

Lady Panthers fall in first round of state tournament, 56-16

There will be no underdog story this year for the Middle Park Panthers, as the girl's basketball team fell in the first round of the 2018 CHSAA 3A State Tournament on Friday to the Pagosa Springs Pirates, 56-16.

The Panthers entered the tournament as the 31 seed, and knew they would have to play a near perfect game to knock off the second seeded Pirates. But that wasn't the case.

"We knew it was going to be an uphill struggle," said Mike Reigan, head coach. "We didn't have our best game, and they're a really good team. They were playing at home, so things did not go well for us. That's the best way I could put it. We needed to be on top of everything to have a chance, and we weren't."

Reigan said he was happy with the way his team played defense for the most part, but said the girls struggled in transition and weren't aggressive enough looking for shots on offense.

Only four Panthers scored, led by Freshman Katie Trail who led the team with seven-points. Junior Anna Peters scored five, while Senior Kiera Barr and Junior Haiden Baker each had two. Baker led the team with three rebounds.

Middle Park had an excellent regular season, going 16-7, and beating a powerhouse Pagosa Springs team was a long shot (Pagosa Springs is the favorite to advance to the state semi-finals over Lamar in the round of eight this week). Still, the loss represents an annual pattern for the Panthers.

In the three years under Reigan, the Panthers have gone 15-6, 16-7 and 16-7, but have failed to perform in tournament play. Middle Park has lost to The Academy Wildcats in the district tournament three years straight, despite entering as the top seed this season. The Panthers have also gone one-and-done in the state tournament the last three years, something Reigan is looking to address for next year.

"We were continuing to improve," said Reigan. "Unfortunately the results are the same. This team I felt was better than last year's team, and better than the first year I took over. So I think we're getting better and better. Unfortunately we haven't broken that ceiling yet, and that's something we're going to have to get done. So my message to the girls is I'm always proud of them, and it's my honor to coach them. But having said that, we need to get better."

They'll have to get better without three of their best players who will be graduating: Bailey Martin, Kiera Barr and captain Britney Rangel (Seniors Rachael Mills and Jordan Harms left the team earlier in the year due to injury issues). Martin, Barr and Rangel were third, fourth and fifth on the team in points and rebounds respectively this season.

The silver lining for Middle Park is that perhaps the team's two best players, Juniors Haiden Baker and Erica Weimer, are expected to return next season, along with freshman standout Katie Trail.

Reigan said he feels continuity will play a key role in continuing to improve the team, crediting his assistant coaches Brandon Young, Sara Rector and Pat Acord for the work they've done over the last three years. He also said that despite another early exit from the tournament, he considers this season a success.

"We've got to get to the point that we break through and we win those games," said Reigan. "And we haven't gotten there yet. So that's what we'll work on for next year. But anytime you get to work with good people and have a good year it's a success. We would have liked to have done better, but I am pleased with the girls, and pleased with my opportunity to work with those girls."