By Liz Wood 

Panthers dig up win against Miners


Liz Wood

Jace Berger puts the ball up among four Miner defenders. The Saratoga Panthers won their first home game by a score of 54-46.

The Saratoga Panthers (1-3) beat the Hanna/Elk Mountain/Medicine Bow (HEM) Miners (2-2) Friday night 54-46.

The Panthers didn't give the Miners much time to enjoy their 0-3 lead to start the game before outscoring them in the first quarter. The Panthers held an 8-point lead most of the quarter ending with a 6-point lead 17-11.

The first five points the Panthers scored in the second quarter were at the free throw line. The Miners fouls helped the Panthers to an 11-point lead. Both Andrew Oiler and Rodrigo Escobedo scored 2 at the free throw line to give the Panthers a solid 24-11 lead. The Panthers defense denied the Miners any points until several minutes into the second quarter. The Panthers continued to outscore the Miners in the second quarter and went into halftime leading 32-21.

With a little over three minutes in the half, Seth Harrison hit the wall at the baseline while trying to catch a pass. Harrison had a head injury and did not return to the game until the second half. Johnston said that Harrison was cleared to play the second half, as he did not have a concussion. His head wound required three stitches after the game, but he was at practice on Monday.

The Panthers struggled in the third quarter as the Miners double-teamed Jace Berger to shut Saratoga down.

The Panthers eked out 9 points to the Miners 11 with the score 41-32 at the end of the third quarter.

The Miners struggled with fouls in the fourth quarter and the Panthers used it to their advantage. The Miners closed in on the Panthers near the end of the fourth quarter, 43-42, and the Panthers had to fight to keep the lead. The Panthers struggled to make a basket but the Miners continued to foul. Berger made 2 free throws with 50 seconds in the quarter, followed by a 4 point to 4 point battle between the teams. The Miners then failed to score as the Panthers continued to hit their free throws winning the game 54-46.

The Saratoga Panthers executed their offense and played defense fairly well.

"They need to work on boxing out when doing zone defense," Johnson said, adding the Panther's man-to-man defense is really good. HEM played a good defense, Johnston said.

"We need help-side defense, it just wasn't there," Johnston said. In practice Monday morning, the team was already working at that. "There were a ton of fouls," Johnston said, as the referees in the game were pretty strict. He wants the boys to see what the referee is calling and change how they play defensively to avoid the fouls.

Johnston complimented assistant coach Jared Crawford, who substituted the players and maintained the game while Johnston was out with Harrison. Even when the team got in foul trouble, Crawford was replacing the players and throughout the game only one Panther fouled out of the game.

The Panthers, who are ranked No. 4 in the 2A Southeast Conference, are preparing for the Fremont Tournament on Monday. The Panthers face off against the Wyoming Indian Chiefs, who are ranked No. 2 in the 2A Southwest Conference, then play the Riverton sophomores. The third game at the tournament depends on how they do Monday.

"We really have to take care of the ball and step up the defense," Johnston said. "We did a pretty good job with 14 turnovers against Hanna."

The Panthers were 11 of 46 from inside the arc and hit two of seven attempts from outside that line. The Panthers added to their free throw total by hitting 26 of 35 at the line.


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