Lady Panthers roll on; boys split a pair
Special to the Sky-Hi News
The season is in full swing for the basketball teams at Middle Park High School. With the teams entering the second half of their year, games have become more challenging and are critical for the Panthers as they look toward post season.
It was a whirlwind weekend beginning on Friday with the girls varsity game against the Denver School of Science and Technology. The Panthers rolled to an easy 44-21 win against the Knights during the second half of the game after some realizations during the first two quarters.
“We came in a little overconfident, we weren’t prepared for their aggressiveness and that caught us off guard in the beginning,” said Head Coach Diane Bickler.
“After calming down and falling back into our comfort zone we took over. It was definitely a second half game,” she added.
Saturday’s game did not turn into the nail-biter that the team had been preparing for. The Lady Panthers shut down Arrupe Jesuit during the home game in Granby. The 40-22 victory over the Generals helped propel Middle Park’s league ranking to third and improved their overall record to 7-5 (6-1 in league games).
Saturday’s win was led by Senior Maria Piceno, who had 13 points and 7 rebounds. The tough Panther defense of senior Ellis Linke and juniors Reilly Weimer and Holly Tehan played a major role in holding Arrupe’s lead scorer to just five points in the game.
“We switched our defense so they wouldn’t know what to expect. They were dumbfounded by the major defensive shift, which ultimately resulted in our win,” said Coach Bickler.
The next set of games will be a real test for the girls as they take on the best team in the league in the next couple weeks.
Boys split games
It was another weekend filled with ups and downs for the boys. After a majority of the team succumbed to the illness spreading around the high school, the Panthers had a long weekend ahead of them.
A loss to the Denver School of Science and Technology was a rough way for the weekend to start. Despite sophomore Jordan Ehlert’s 17-point contribution for the Panthers, the team was unable to play up to standard during the third quarter. This resulted in the 71-52 loss.
“We did not play well coming out of half time,”said Head Coach James Newberry. “We were outscored 21-9 in the third quarter and we could not overcome such a deficit.”
The focus of Saturday’s home game was not only to win, but to win the third quarter. The Panthers needed to come out strong during the start of the second half and play the whole game.
There were a good deal of points scored by both teams during Saturday’s home win of 83-73 over Arrupe Jesuit. Both teams played well and remained distant until the fourth quarter.
“We are still struggling with how to finish games. We were up almost 20 points with four minutes left and we only ended up winning by 10,” said Coach Newberry.
Multiple members of Middle Park’s team stood out during Saturdays game. Sophomore Nojus Bilevicius was named as the player of the game after an impressive 20-point effort. Junior Ryan Jones also had an outstanding game after recording his second double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds. And junior Avery Steinberg led the team in both rebounds and blocks with 12 and three respectively.
Saturday’s win helped the Panthers improve to fourth overall in league standings. The Panthers have some critical games coming up this week against challenging league opponents.
“These last few games will be challenging, our boys will need to rise to the occasion if we want to continue our season on a good note,” said Coach Newberry.
The Panthers will be back at home for the next three games. Middle Park’s first home game of this three-game series will be Saturday, Feb. 7, beginning at 4 p.m. against Sheridan.
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Taking on No. 5 ranked Coal Ridge in the Class 3A state tournament, the Middle Park boys soccer team fell 3-0 on Thursday in New Castle.