Friday, February 13, 2004
The Rangely boys basketball team wrapped up an undefeated league season with a 63-50 win over Hayden on Friday night.
But the Panthers had to earn their victory against the Tigers.
Hayden played with Rangely, one of the state's top teams in Class 2A, for a majority of the game. The Panthers didn't truly pull away until the final minute, when Greg Skelton and Josh Padilla turned a couple of steals into a quick four points, giving their team an insurmountable 14-point lead with less than 30 seconds remaining.
"This is supposed to be the best team in the state," Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner said of Rangely. "And they are good. They have all the weapons."
Rangely coach Mark Skelton had nothing but compliments to hand Hayden, as well. Thanks to the Tigers, among other league teams, Skelton thinks the Panthers have been pushed to earn their league championship after wearing targets on their backs all season.
"Every team sees (playing us) as the opportunity to knock off one of the best teams in the state," Skelton said. "Yes, we have been challenged. The league is better this season, and Hayden is probably the most improved team."
The Tigers pulled out to a 9-7 lead after one quarter, bringing the crowd to its feet. Rangely threatened to pull away before the half, outscoring Hayden 10-3 through the first five minutes of the second.
Senior Jared Alpe, off a good feed from junior Evan Hilling, drew contact at the 3 minute, 11 second mark, however, and converted the three-point play, pulling the Tigers back to within two.
Rangely went into the locker room with a six-point lead.
But the Panthers upped their defensive intensity and started using their speed to create easy baskets in transition in the third and pushed a single-digit lead to as many as 17 points at the tail end of the third.
"We were trying to do so much offensively," Baumgartner said. "They had a lot of transition baskets and that hurts. We were attacking and got stuck at times."
The difference between Hayden teams of the past and this year's team, however, is that the Tigers did not go away. Instead of letting the Panthers blow them out, the Tigers spent the fourth quarter creeping back in the game, pulling to within eight with 1:37 left but couldn't get any closer.
"Our kids have the confidence they can beat anybody," Baumgartner said.
The Panthers, on the other hand, have both the inside and outside game to beat anybody, at least appears that way heading into the postseason.
In addition to Brian Skelton's 25 points, Padilla added 20 and Greg Skelton chipped in with 10 for the Panthers.
Junior Cam Whiteman scored 13 to lead Hayden, and Hilling added 12 points.
Rangely improves to 15-3 overall and finishes 8-0 in league, while Hayden fell to 12-6 and 4-4.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org