After nearly pulling off a marquee win against tough competition the previous weekend, the Powell High School boys basketball team broke into the win column Friday night at Cody.
The Panthers sank 10 of their 13 free throws in the final quarter — and more importantly, sank their last four attempts to defeat the Cody Broncs 73-69 Friday night at Sweitzer Gymnasium in Cody.
“It was a good win for us and it was a hard win,” Powell coach Chase Kistler said. “Any win in this environment, in this gym, is really hard to get. I’m proud of our guys — they found a way to win. It wasn’t pretty, but we found a way to win and finish it out.”
In a game featuring 10 lead changes and seven ties, the Panthers (1-3) came up biggest at the end.
Trailing 64-63 with 1:35 remaining in the game, Powell junior Jesse Brown drained a 3-pointer from the right corner to give his team a 66-64 lead. After Cody’s Tristan Blatt tied it with a pair of free throws with 1:21 remaining, Kaelan Groves answered with another 3-pointer to put the Panthers back up 69-66.
But it wasn’t over yet. Cody got a basket from Elijah Leyva and a free throw from Heston Williams to again tie the game at 69 with less than 30 seconds to go.
That’s when Powell delivered the knockout blows from the free-throw line, as Landon Lengfelder and William Preator each sank a pair of free throws in the final 17 seconds to take the lead for good and ice the Panthers’ first win of the year.
“Last year, we took those shots and they didn’t fall for us,” Kistler said. “This year, we’re having some guys step up and knock those shots down. ... We’re hitting free throws this year and that helps get wins like this, too, when it’s that close.”
Several Panthers took turns stepping up Friday night. Preator scored 16 of his team-high 21 points in the first half, while Carson Heinen scored eight of his 11 in the second half and Groves added 13 of his 15 after the intermission.
“That’s the good thing about a team,” Kistler said. “I tell these guys all the time, ‘You don’t always have to carry the load — you’ve got some great players around you, so just trust in your team and it’ll happen.’”
Heinen added 10 rebounds for a double-double and also dished off five assists, while Dalton Woodward added eight rebounds.
“Carson [Heinen] struggled a little bit at the beginning but picked it up at the end,” Kistler said. “Woody [Dalton Woodward] had a solid game. Kaelan [Groves] had a couple of turnovers early in the game, then finished the game really strong. Will [Preator] started out quick and he was pretty steady throughout the second half, too. He just wasn’t quite making the shots that he was in the first half.”
Friday’s win over Cody was the fourth tough opponent the Panthers played to open the season. Powell lost by four points to No. 2 Rawlins and 10 to No. 1 Buffalo on Dec. 8, and Cody was the Class 3A runner-up last winter before making the jump to 4A this season.
“It’s a good win for us, but like I told them [afterwards], ‘Let’s be hungry, let’s be humble, let’s start getting ready,’” Kistler said. “This should be an expectation — we want to expect to win every game that we play.”
The Panthers make their home debut Friday against Wyoming Indian, which was ranked fifth in Class 2A in last week’s Wyopreps.com poll.
“They’re a good team,” Kistler said. “They’re one of the top teams in 2A right now. They can shoot well. ... It’s a fast-paced game. We’re going to have to figure out a way to slow them down a little bit.”
The game begins at 7 p.m. in the Panther Gym.