Granby " After shaky first game, Middle Park boys get off to 2-1 start on season |

Granby " After shaky first game, Middle Park boys get off to 2-1 start on season

Will Bublitz
Grand County, Colorado
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

Granby, Colorado ” Overcoming their initial nervousness, Middle Park High’s boys basketball team opened its season by winning two of three games at last week’s Meeker Invitational.

During the three-day tournament Dec. 11-13, the Panther hoopsters fell to Rangely in the first game but bounced back to win the second and third games against Moffat County and Altamont, Utah.

“The first games of any season are always the hardest because you don’t really know where you stand,” said Middle Park coach Brian Reynolds. “But what’s great about starting in a tournament like this is that you have three games in three days. You quickly see where your play needs to be fixed.”

The Meeker Invitational began Thursday, Dec. 11, with the Panthers facing off against Rangely. Despite a strong effort, Middle Park lost by a lopsided score of 65-46.

“A lot of the reason for our loss was first-game jitters,” Reynolds said. “I think our varsity players tried to do more than I asked in that first game. They each tried to be the wheel rather than being the cog in the wheel.”

During the first quarter, Rangely shot out to a commanding 26-2 lead. After falling so far behind, Middle Park struggled for the remainder of the contest but failed to close the gap.

Reynolds explained the team’s main problem was that its players tried too hard to score instead of concentrating on defense. Also, when they got the chance to shoot free throws, they lacked the concentration to make good shots.

“We made only eight of our 23 free throw attempts and only 25 percent of our field goal attempts,” he said. “Our offense suffered in that game.”

The Panthers’ leading scorer in Thursday’s game was Mike Schmidt with 16 points and four rebounds. Zane Bickler earned four rebounds.

Having fallen so hard in their first game, the Panthers reassessed their play overnight and came out determined to do better on Friday. They concentrated on playing as a team and easily beat Moffat County 59-42.

“Everybody took what happened in that first game to heart,” Reynolds said. “When we worked on improving our defense in Friday’s game, our offense also improved.

Because we weren’t worrying about it, everyone got the ball and that made the difference.”

Schmidt again led the team’s scoring with 20 points, followed by Mantas Raila with nine while Ross Eaton, Jordan Reynolds and Sam Damon earned seven points each. Eaton also posted eight rebounds while Schmidt had seven.

Having gained confidence from that first win, Middle Park’s hoopsters kept their victory momentum going into Saturday. Taking on the team from Altamont, Utah, the Panthers won 69-53.

“It was actually a hard game to play because there were so many fouls,” Reynolds said. “Three of our guys fouled out and four of Altamont’s.

“But the most encouraging thing about that game was that they really pressed us in the second half, but we didn’t fall apart,” he said. “We held in there and fought back. That’s a measure of our players’ experience that we now have on this team.”

An indicator of the team’s coolness under fire was improved free throw shooting. The Panthers made 24 points on 38 attempts with Justin Cisneros making nine of those points, Jordan Reynolds seven and Eaton five.

“That was decent, but we definitely want to improve,” Reynolds said.

In Saturday’s game, Eaton was Middle Park’s scoring leader with 17 points, followed by Reynolds with 13 including two three-pointers.

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