Rangely senior Brian Skelton's eight-game audition to be named the Western Slope Player of the Year and Rangely's bid to defend its league title began in impressive form Friday.
The Panthers defeated the Rams, 48-33, behind a game-high 25 points from the 6-foot-5 Skelton. He dominated play inside and showed off his ball-handling skills and shooting range at times, as well.
"I will say he's the best player in the league," Soroco coach Andy Smith said.
And at this point, Rangely, ranked as high as second in the state, once again may be the team to beat in the league, though coach Mark Skelton wouldn't agree.
"I don't think we're that good," he said about the No. 2 ranking.
If the Panthers are deserving of their current state mark, then the Rams aren't far behind -- at least they weren't in the game's first 16 minutes.
Soroco came out and made its shots and attacked the rim behind senior Denis Luark and sophomore Steven Meade. Meade even had an impressive spin move that left Skelton swinging at air.
"That was our game plan, to go at them," Smith said. "And then, it disappeared in the second half. This is a better basketball team than the score showed."
After holding a slim 20-15 lead at the half, the Panthers outscored the Rams, 28-18, in the third and fourth quarters.
"Our shots weren't falling in the second half," Smith said. "If you don't score more than 33, you won't win in this league."
But Smith isn't concerned about the result of Friday's game. Soroco has little time to dwell on what might have been with rival Hayden coming to town for a 7 p.m. game Tuesday. The Tigers appear poised to challenge the Panthers for a possible league crown.
Mark Skelton knows Rangely is going to get every team's best shot, but he is glad his Panthers don't have to face the Rams again, at least not in the regular season.
"They are a scrappy team," he said.
Tony Iacovetto led all Soroco scorers with nine points.