Middle Park Girls lose in districts; head to state tournament Friday | SkyHiNews.com

Middle Park Girls lose in districts; head to state tournament Friday

Middle Park Panther Kiera Barr hits a go-ahead layup versus Salida in a 40-39 win last season.
Courtesy Chad Fossen |

The Middle Park Panthers Girl’s Basketball Team lost in an upset to The Academy Wildcats in the Frontier League 3A District Tournament Championship on Saturday, 48-44. Despite the loss the Panthers will still head to the state tournament as the 31st seed on Friday.

The Panthers entered district tournaments as the top seed, and dispatched The Pinnacle Timberwolves and DSST: Stapleton Knights with relative ease before running into the surging Wildcats. The Academy entered the tournament as the third seed, in part because of a 35-27 loss to Middle Park earlier this month.

The Panthers came out strong, outscoring the Wildcats 11-8 in the opening quarter. But the Wildcats regrouped and never faltered. They took a 25-24 lead before the half, and carried a 13-10 third period to victory.

The Academy will enter the 2018 CHSAA 3A Girls Basketball State Tournament as the number 24 seed, and will take on the ninth seeded Lutheran Lions. Middle Park’s road ahead is tough. To advance they’ll have to go through the second seeded Pagosa Springs Pirates.

The 18-3 Pirates swept the Intermountain District Tournament, and rank 23rd in the state. The Pirates average about 50.5 points-per-game, compared to about 42 PPG for the Panthers. The Pirates also sport the better defense on paper, allowing 26.6 PPG, compared to the Panthers 30.5.

The key for Middle Park will be containing Pagosa Springs’ star player Morgan Lewis. The senior captain has been an absolute beast for the Pirates this season, nearly averaging a double-double with 17.8 PPG and 9.5 rebounds-per-game.

The responsibility to counter Lewis will fall on Middle Park’s core of upperclassmen: Seniors Bailey Martin, Kiera Barr and Britney Rangel, and Juniors Haiden Baker and Erica Weimer. The five combined for nearly 70 percent of the Panther’s scoring this season, and will have to play big this week if Middle Park wants to advance.

The Panthers take on the Pirates on Friday at 6 p.m. at Pagosa Springs High School. If the Panthers are able to pull out an upset they’ll go on to play the winner of the Grand Valley v. University game on March 3. The tournament takes a little more than a week, with a champion expected to be crowned on March 10.

West Grand Boys

A day after losing in the District 5 Tournament to the Meeker Cowboys, the Mustangs dropped another game to the Plateau Valley Cowboys in the consolation bracket, 55-40.

The loss represents the end of a hard-fought 10-12 season for the Mustangs, who showed a lot of potential but were never able to put all the pieces together or sustain winning streaks.

The Mustang’s roster composition shows both promise and reason for concern for next season. The silver lining is that the Mustangs will retain core players like Juniors Austin Stauffer and Luis Dominguez, along with Sophomore Marcus Sanchez. But they will also lose several seniors including key players in Jake Bentler, Josh O’Hotto, Brady Gore and Garrett Miller.

West Grand Girls

The Lady Mustangs suffered a similar fate to the boys’ team, losing to the Soroco Rams in the district tournament before falling to the Hotchkiss Bulldogs in the consolation bracket.

The loss ends a disappointing 5-17 season for the Mustangs, just a year removed from going 14-6. West Grand will lose Seniors Jerrika Jones, Ralin Corralas, Hailey McNichols and Sydney Ritschard to graduation after this year. Sophomore Emma DeSanti and Jurnior Anna Douglass, who led the team in scoring this season, will return.

Middle Park Boys

The Middle Park Boys lost to the KIPP Denver Collegiate White Tigers in the first round of the district tournament on Feb. 15, 58-31. The loss put an end to a rough 4-16 season for the Panthers.

Middle Park is set up relatively well for next season. The Panthers will only lose four seniors to graduation including Lukas Senovaitis, Blake Weimer, Cesar Sandoval and Sam Colley. They will retain their core talent, however, with Juniors Ben Kuhnel, Jackson Wolle and Aironas Bilevicius, and Sophomores Evan and Alec Laraby set to return.

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