Over the weekend, the Saratoga Panthers boys basketball team held two third quarter leads, first against Farson-Eden Jan. 13 and the next day against Cokeville. Before the buzzer had sounded in each game, those leads had been surrendered and Saratoga was left holding an L.
According to coach Jason Williams the losses taught his Panthers “the importance of not ever taking any plays off. That can come back and bite us in a close game.” Saratoga fell 61-51 to Farson-Eden and went down 47-38 to Cokeville.
Williams was impressed with his team’s performance against two teams feared Wyoming-wide, however. “I think the boys came away with some confidence, to know that they could come back against a good team like (Cokeville),” he said.
Early on, Saratoga was down 17-2 to Cokeville, but the Panthers never gave up. Saratoga rallied to cut that lead to under 10 by half time, then scored the first 10 points of the second half to take the reigns halfway through the third.
The Panthers “had a couple miscues down the stretch,” gave up points and couldn’t claw their way back, however, Williams said. The coach blamed a handful of critical two or three minute letdowns for the loss, and also noted the Panthers only hit 4 of 12 free throws in the game.
On the positive side, Williams said “Colton Jones probably had his best game of the year against Cokeville.” Jones had the unenviable task of shutting down Cokeville’s biggest scoring threat, and despite being shorter than his defensive match-up, Jones forced him to take outside shots he wasn’t comfortable taking. Williams said Jones’ physical play was critical to the Panther defensive effort, and also commended Morgan Rempel, whom he called “one of our most solid defenders.”
On the offensive side, Williams praised Gage Bartlett’s 22 points against Cokeville.
Bartlett also had an impressive stat sheet from the Farson competition, where he chalked up 25 points to give him 47 on the weekend. “(Bartlett) was shooting the ball really well and getting a lot of shots to drop,” Williams said of the point guard.
A big weekend is forthcoming for Saratoga basketball. At 7 p.m. Jan. 20, the Panthers will square off against regional rivals Encampment in Encampment, then they’ll have an 4 p.m. game against Kaycee at home the next day.
Talking about Encampment, Williams said “It’ll be a battle. I think we’re pretty evenly matched and it’s going to be one of those great environments. It’s going to be a packed gym and I love playing in those situations.”
Williams isn’t very familiar with Kaycee, but was already emailing other coaches questions about the No. 1 ranked 2A team. “It’s going to come down to the wire and depend on which team executes,” Williams promised.