Panthers suffer first loss of the season to Hornets


Doug Radunich

Braxton Schwartzkopf looks to make a pass against Pine Bluffs defense during the Panthers' Saturday home game against the Hornets. Schwartzkopf scored 17 points for the Panthers, but the team lost 68-74.

The Saratoga varsity Panthers suffered their first loss of the 2013-14 season, with a close 68-74 takedown from the Pine Bluffs Hornets.

The Saturday game was not only the Panthers' first losing one out of seven season games played so far, it was also their first conference matchup of the season. The 2013-14 Panther record now stands at 6-1 (non-conference) and 0-1 (conference).

The Panthers put up a solid neck-and-neck fight throughout the game against the hornets, maintaining a tie or one point ahead or behind at the end of the first three quarters. Saratoga trailed 18-19 at the end of the first quarter, led 29-28 at the end of the second and trailed 48-49 at the end of the third.

With 17 seconds left in the game and a Hornet-led score of 71-68, all Saratoga needed was a three-pointer to tie it up and possibly take over. The Panthers unfortunately didn't get their chance to score again, and the game ended at 74-68.

The junior varsity boys' team also lost to Pine Bluffs earlier in the day Saturday, with a score of 47-67.

Head coach Josh Sandlian said Pine Bluffs' height advantage was hard to overcome during the varsity matchup. He noted one Hornet in particular who stood nearly 7 feet tall.

"When you've got a 6'7' kid in there it's nice to just lob him the ball, but we did a really good job against him and for the most part took care of him," Sandlian said. "When you have that height advantage on the offensive glass it's great, because you can just stand there and get the rebound and put it right back up. When you're that tall you can really shoot over everybody, so we just need to do better job on the offensive glass against him, and keep him out of there."

For the top Panther scorer, John Brennan held the crown with a total of 27 points. Following Brennan were Braxton Schwartzkopf's 17 points, Ryan Malone's eight points, Ben Falk's and Cameron Collamer's seven points each and Seth Harrison's two points.

Sandlian said the unified team play and desire to win is what really mattered on the court, as opposed to which player happened to score the most points.

"John's a good player, but I think he'd rather have the win," he said. "I guarantee those guys in there tonight would rather have the 'W', and they're to the point where it doesn't really matter who scores or what happens. They'd rather have the 'W', and we've just got to keep working. We're a big threat to anybody we play and I knew we weren't out of it, but we had our opportunities and it just didn't fall our way."

Brennan said the team's passing was a definite strength throughout the game, and helped lead to him scoring 27 points.

"There was just really good passing across the board," he said. "Everyone did a great job feeding me when I was hot, but once I went cold we did our best. There were times when none of us could get shots to fall and they (Pine Bluffs) double-teamed me, so it was tough."

Brennan said Saturday's game was a good play for their first conference matchup of the season. He also pointed out the Hornets' height advantage as a major factor in their close triumph.

"We played one hell of a game, honestly, but with the height that Pine Bluffs had we knew they were coming in to a good team," Brennan said. "We knew they were going to give us a run for our money, and this was our first conference game of the year. We're only seven games into the season, but now we have a lot of building to do. We're just starting and we have far to go, but it will be a different story next time."

Sandlian said he admired the team's hustle and ability to never accept defeat, no matter what the circumstances are.

"They hustle all the time, and they're at the point where they know where each other are going to be," he said. "They know they can get after people, and it doesn't matter if they're 6'7". We aren't going to back down from anybody. Tonight they did a great job doing what we asked, and they never give up."

Before Saturday's game, Saratoga beat Little Snake River last Friday with 56-39. In a switch from Saturday's game, Schwartzkopf put up the most points with 19, while Brennan came in a close second, scoring 17.

The Panthers' next play Wyoming Indian in the Fremont Tournament, which takes place Dec. 24-28 in Ethete. Sandlian said that although the Chiefs will be a tough play, his boys won't be afraid of them.

"Next week we go up to play Wyoming Indian High School, and we're going after them," he said. "They're the number one team in the state, and we're playing at their place. Our plan is to go up there and take it right out of them, and we're going to get a 'W' up against them. This group is going to rebound and we're going to be surprising to some people."

The Panthers' next game following the Fremont Tournament will be an away game against Burns, starting at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10.

Information on Saratoga's wrestling team, which recently competed in the Quandrangular in Hanna and Kremmling Invite, will be in a later edition due to the winter break.


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