Middle Park boys look to playoffs after honoring seniors on team
The Middle Park boys basketball team will miss its seven seniors dearly, but they aren’t gone yet.
“That’s definitely fitting,” coach Todd Williams said of the synopsis. “I’m happy with our regular season. Now we need to keep it up in the district tournament.”
The team closed out its regular season on Tuesday, senior night, with a 66-49 win over Sheridan at home. The game came with a handful of heartfelt moments and the team’s seniors were introduced with their families before tipoff.
At 13-4 overall and 9-2 in Frontier League play, this won’t be the last time we see the Panthers potent squad in action, though. With its record, Middle Park has earned the right to host a district playoff game next week. Its opponent will be determined by this weekend’s pigtail games.
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Looking down the team’s lineup, the seven seniors standout. Of course, there are twin brothers Alec and Evan Laraby. Throughout the year, they’ve anchored the program as two of the team’s top producers. Both can drive the hoop, play strong defense and they’re especially sharp from 3-point range.
Williams revealed there’s a running contest among the team to see which Laraby ends up shooting the first 3 each game, but ask the coach who’s more accurate of the two and he quickly moves onto the next question.
“I’m going to stay out of that one,” Williams said. “But you know what, those two guys love basketball and they’ve put so much time into it, even before this year … they’ve been great to coach.”
Another leader for the Panthers has been senior Gabe Loberg, who’s battled for critical rebounds, hit shots from inside and outside and been a strong presence in the paint this year. Williams agreed Loberg does a lot of the team’s physical work, but the coach said Loberg’s leadership qualities extend well off the court.
“Even from the summer, the way he carries himself, he’s been a great leader for us,” Williams said.
Senior Jacob Smith has continued to emerge as a scoring threat for the Panthers, and he also knocks down a lot of 3s. More than that, Williams pointed out that Smith ranks in top four on the team in almost every category because “he contributes in all aspects of the game.”
Another senior, Akram Hanna, has become the team’s shutdown defender tasked with guarding opponents’ best perimeter players. What people might not see on the court, Williams said, is the light-hearted, fun attitude Hanna brings to the team, including at practice and during long bus rides.
Two seniors who haven’t gotten as much game time but have been important to the team nonetheless are Rudy Riplinger and Camedon Burns. Their strong work ethic and ability to push the players around them have made both of them great assets for the Panthers this year, Williams said.
“(Rudy) has been important in practices getting guys ready, and he’s been a great addition to the program,” Williams said. “(Burns) is one of those kids who goes to work every day and has a great attitude. He’s been a great player for us.”
Fans will see the Panthers back in action at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday after the girls team hosts its district playoff game at 6 o’clock.
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