Granby " Panther hoopsters soldier on against tough opponents
Sky-Hi Daily News
As its regular season grinds to an end, Middle Park High’s boys basketball team dropped two more games.
Last Friday, Feb. 15, the Panthers were trounced 99-63 by Kent Denver’s Sun Devils. Then in their Monday, Feb. 18, home game, they were picked apart 63-48 by Weld Central’s Rebels.
“Our guys have played hard,” said coach Brian Reynolds. “For the rest of this season, they’ve got to keep their heads up and continue to play hard.”
In Friday’s away game at Kent Denver, the Sun Devils jumped out to a dominating 25-13 lead in the first quarter.
“Kent Denver, which is ranked third in the league, is a good team,” Reynolds said. “We knew we were going to have our work cut out for us. We played hard against them and never gave up.”
After suffering through that devastating opening quarter, the Panthers tried to rally and make a comeback, but the Sun Devils never gave them a chance. By halftime, the score stood at 51-32.
Returning to the court, Middle Park’s prospects did not improve. By the end of the third quarter, Kent Denver held a 27-point lead.
“We were missing the leadership of a couple of our key starters in that game,”
Reynolds said. “It was hard to fill those spots with some of our younger players who have not had enough court time. We ended up playing everybody, especially those younger guys to test them in a varsity game and prepare them for next season.”
Two Middle Park seniors led the offense against Kent Denver. Ian Sutton had another excellent game, scoring 31 points. He was followed by Zilvinas Sutkus who posted 16 points. Sutton also led in rebounds with seven.
After suffering through Friday’s pasting in Denver, the Panthers had hopes for better results in Monday’s home game. Unfortunately, Weld Central’s Rebels had other plans.
The home game actually began quite well for Middle Park. Almost identical two-and-three-point shot combinations by both Sutkus and Sutton matched Weld Central’s scoring in the first few minutes of play.
However, the Rebels followed Middle Park’s strong opening shots with a some quick layups in the final two minutes. That pushed them into the lead 17-13 despite a basket by Panther Jared Rojo.
Middle Park still had a chance to catch their opponents, but that hope was quickly dashed. As the second quarter began, Weld Central’s offense kicked into high gear and racked up basket after basket with Middle Park’s defense unable to stop them.
The Panther offense was ineffective until the last three minutes of play in the second quarter when four baskets by Sutkus and one by Mike Schmidt prevented the Panthers from being completely blown away. Despite their effort, the Rebels went into halftime holding a 35-23 lead.
If not for a couple of baskets by Sutkus and one by Schmidt, Middle Park’s offense would have gone completely dry in the third quarter. By the start of the fourth quarter, the points spread had increased to 20 in Weld Central’s favor.
In the final quarter, the Panthers started to show some life. Sutkus began it with a couple of quick baskets and a three-pointer that cut down the Rebels’ 20-point lead.
Weld Central immediately retaliated to regain their momentum, but Middle Park regained the lost ground.
In the last three minutes, Middle Park’s Sam Damon really stepped up. He drilled the hoop four times with free-throws and then followed them by making a basket.
Despite the Panthers’ fourth-quarter efforts, it proved to be too little and too late as the Rebels maintained a comfortable lead to win the game 63-48.
“We actually outscored them 19 to 14 in the fourth quarter,” Reynolds said. “We’ve just got to get rid of those quarters where we score less than 10 points. That happened to us again in the third quarter of this game.”
Sutkus was the Panthers’ top scorer, earning 25 points during Monday’s home game.
“Zilvinas was hot early,” Reynolds said. “Our game plan was to see if he could continue to hit the basket and make some three-pointers. At one point in the game, we got within 10 points of them. Late in the third quarter and then again in the fourth quarter, everyone really stepped up.”
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