Panthers go 1-1 in conference games
Saratoga boys fall to Cokeville, win over Farson-Eden
January 26, 2022
The walls of the Panther Den reverberated with the raucous roars of Saratoga Panther fans as the team hosted two conference rivals for two barn burners this past weekend.
On Friday, Saratoga hosted the Cokeville Panthers resulting in a narrow loss for the hosting Panthers. The following day, the Panthers sunk their claws into the Farson-Eden Pronghorns, whose fleet feet had allowed them to narrowly avoid a loss in Encampment the night before.
Despite the split weekend, Head Coach Jason Williams was pleased overall with his team's performance considering the Panthers had struggled with sickness and an injured starter.
Panthers vs. Panthers
The first game of the weekend saw two teams of Panthers face off on the hardwood on Friday afternoon. Going into this matchup, Saratoga had secured one conference win over the Encampment Tigers just a few weeks before while Cokeville had yet to play any conference games. For the first half, however, it seemed as if the hosting Panthers would keep Cokeville at bay.
While both the 1st and 2nd quarter were tight, with both teams going basket-for-basket, Saratoga continued to eke out a lead over the visiting Panthers. At halftime, the hosting Panthers led by just 2 points, with a score of 29-27.
Upon returning to the court, Saratoga pushed ahead to obtain, at one time, a 9 point lead. As the 3rd quarter wore on, however, the visiting Panthers used it to their advantage to wear out Saratoga. As the final quarter approached, at one point the two teams were tied. Cokeville continued to push ahead and secure a 2 point lead over the hosting Panthers, 47-45.
In the 4th quarter, it was anyone's game and hardly anyone would have been shocked if the game had gone into overtime. As the seconds wore down and Saratoga continued to try to retake the lead, the visiting Panthers fought back in what could only be described as a barn burner.
As the buzzer sounded, Cokeville came out the victor with a score of 56-52.
Afterwards, Williams told his Panthers to keep their heads up.
"Like I told them after the game, all I ask of them is attitude and effort and that's what they gave," said Williams. "A couple shots, a couple things, go a different way and maybe we have something different but they didn't and that's just sometimes how it goes."
Grant Bartlett led the Panthers against Cokeville with 13 points, 4 assists and 5 steals. Kelton Johnson followed with 10 points. Grady Bartlett also scored 10 points and had 6 steals. Heston Fisher scored 8 points and had 6 rebounds and Deke Herring contributed to the win with 6 points.
Panthers vs. Pronghorns
Saratoga didn't have long to lick their wounds as they hosted the Pronghorns the very next day. The night before, as the two Panther teams battled it out, Farson-Eden had just barely kept ahead of the Tigers.
Though the colors and mascots were different, the game was very similar in that each team went basket-for-basket on the court. In the 1st and 2nd quarter, the Panther were able to lead by 2 points with a tie at one point as Saratoga sank three baskets in a row only to be answered back by Farson-Eden with two 3-point shots.
As each team fought to control the court, and the Pronghorns applied pressure to the Bartlett twins, each quarter seemed to go faster and faster towards the buzzer. At halftime, the Panthers led 20-18 over Farson-Eden.
It wasn't until the 3rd quarter when Saratoga would obtain their biggest lead of the night, pushing ahead by just 3 points over the Pronghorns. As the game entered the final quarter, the Panthers led 30-27.
The 4th quarter, like much of the game, saw emotions run high as both teams looked to secure a conference win. While the Pronghorns continued to try and evade Saratoga's claws, the final buzzer would see the Panthers win with a score of 43-39.
"This was a good game for us because they put a lot of pressure on us, probably more than a team has so far. There's some adjustments we need to make and make sure that no one or two guys are being forced to handle all the pressure," Williams said. "They showed us some things we need to work on that we definitely will. We just have to continually get better so that, hopefully, we're peaking at tournament time. That's part of getting better is showing us what we need to work on."
In the game against the Pronghorns, Fisher would lead Saratoga with 14 points and 5 rebounds. K. Johnson followed with 10 points and Geoffrey Johnson scored 9 points. Grady Bartlett scored 7 points and had 4 assists while Grant Bartlett had 6 assists.
Following their split weekend, the Saratoga Panthers are sitting at No. 3 in the difficult 1A Southwest Conference. They are 5-4 for the season and 2-1 in conference play.
The Panthers will have been hosted by the Hanna, Elk Mountain, Medicine Bow (HEM) Miners on January 25 and will be hosted by the No. 1 Little Snake River Valley (LSRV) Rattlers at 4 p.m. on January 28 in Baggs.
The next home game for Saratoga will be at 1 p.m. January 29 as they host the Southeast Cyclones.