The Powell High School boys’ basketball team shook off last weekend’s loss to Lander in solid fashion on Friday, besting Class 3A Northwest rival Lovell 39-28 at Panther Gym.
Seniors Kaelan Groves and Carson Heinen led the charge for the Panthers, scoring 13 and 10 points, respectively. Lovell came out in a zone defense, and Powell head coach Chase Kistler said it was important from the outset that his players hit shots from the perimeter.
“The style of defense they [Lovell] played, they had five guys in the paint, so it made it hard for our big guys to really get anything going,” Kistler explained. “We shot OK from the outside; we usually shoot a little bit better. But their game plan worked out perfectly — if we had made some shots from outside, I think it would have opened the game up a little bit more.”
Both teams struggled early, with the score knotted at 5-5 at the end of one. A 3-pointer and a free throw by Groves and another freebie by Mason Marchant accounted for the Panthers’ offensive output.
“We practiced all week against 2-3 zone and 1-3-1 zone, so we were definitely ready for it,” Kistler said of Lovell’s defense. “During the week and during pre-game we’d actually shot really well from the outside. But we had a hard time pulling them out of the zone in the first half.”
Powell slowly began to find a scoring rhythm in the second quarter, out-scoring the Bulldogs 9-7 to take a 14-12 lead at the break. The Panthers shot just 4-for-26 from the field in the first half, with Groves scoring seven of those 14 points.
Lovell kept it close to begin the second half, but began to fade in the fourth. The Panthers took advantage of some costly turnovers to create fastbreak opportunities; Powell outscored Lovell 11-7 in the final frame to cap the 38-29 win.
“Once we got the lead and I put on the press in the second half, I think it extended our lead and put us in a more comfortable position,” Kistler said. “We just kept getting the ball inside, making sure the big guys got touches on it. We moved the ball around, moved the defense — it’s pretty easy playing defense when you can sit in zone. We wanted to make the defense rotate two or three times before the shot goes up, so it’s not so easy on them.”
Kistler also praised the Panthers’ defense.
“I know Lovell’s not a high-scoring team, but to hold a team to 29 points, that’s pretty good defense,” he said. “We played predominantly man defense, so that’s good to see.”
Groves added six rebounds, three assists and three steals to go along with his 13 points, while Heinen led the team in boards with 15 to complete the double-double.
“I thought Kaelan [Groves] had another good game; he’s been shooting consistently,” Kistler said. “I felt Carson Heinen inside, his rebounds were pretty important. Instead of just getting one shot, we’d get two or three shots out of every possession.”
Marchant finished the night with seven points, while Dalton Woodward and Landon Lengfelder chipped in three points apiece. Kistler said he continues to be impressed with the minutes his bench is giving him night in and night out.
“Landon [Lengfelder] and Mason [Marchant] coming off the bench, Aidan Jacobsen coming in, giving good minutes, is what we like to see,” he said. “It’s definitely the guard play coming off the bench that’s working for us. It should be a fun couple of years with those guys, especially the way they score.”
The Panthers will host Pinedale this Friday, with the key to that game revolving around how to contain Wrangler senior Danny Gosar. Gosar is one of the top scorers in the state, averaging 13.4 points a game, and is capable of a lot more if given the chance, according to Kistler.
“Gosar can score 30 points in a game easily,” the coach said. “The rest of his team is kind of a role-play team, They just set good physical screens, they rebound, they hustle, they play good defense. I’ve never seen Gosar just get shut down in a game, so we’re going to have to limit the touches that he can get, while making sure the other guys on the court aren’t getting hot either.”