The PHS Boys’ Basketball team claims the 2022 3A West Regional title

Nathan Feller

More stories from Nathan Feller

May 2, 2023

Nathan Feller

Fans and players alike celebrate the Panthers’ 73-63 victory March 4 over the Worland Warriors to seal PHS’ place in the 2022 3A State Championship.

At long last, the postseason has arrived for basketball teams across the state. Beginning March 3, the 2022 3A West Regional Tournament was hosted by PHS. 

The Panther boys went into the weekend No. 3 in the North West quadrant. And after the final buzzer Saturday night, the Powell Panthers had become champions of the 3A West.

“It was an amazing experience,” senior Zach Ratcliff said. “By far one of my top high school memories.”

The boys Regional journey began with a tough Mountain View matchup. Although the boys had trouble finding the basket early on, they were able to keep themselves afloat at the free throw line. 

As the Panther’s first test wound to an end, the victor was decided in the final minutes. The Panthers survived with a 45-43 victory over the Buffalo. However, the celebration was short lived; the Panther boys knew they still had had a long road ahead.

“We played tough teams,” Ratcliff said. “One of them had beaten us three times already this year.”

The following day, the Panthers found themselves warming up across the court from the number one team in the region. The Worland Warriors had already defeated the boys three times throughout the regular season, and were expecting to do so a fourth time. 

“We’ve been battling all year,” Head Coach Mike Heny said. “They know they have to battle for every possession.”

The Panther boys did exactly that against their regional rival, jumping to an early lead in the first quarter and maintaining throughout the first half.

We wanna bring it home.

— Zach Ratcliff

At the forefront was sophomore Gunnar Erickson who, after only putting up two points in the first quarter, compiled a total of 16 points. With four 3-pointers in the second, Erickson only added fuel to the Panther flame going into the half. 

By the end of the night, top scorers sophomores Brock Johnson, Gunnar Erickson, and senior Toran Graham led the Panthers to their first and most important victory over the Warriors. 

The Panthers had secured their place in the State Tournament.

“I think that’s our biggest advantage going into state,” Ratcliff said. “We have seen so many close games to good teams that we are ready for whatever situation is thrown at us.”

As the final day rolled around, the Panthers prepared to take on the Kemmerer Rangers for the Regional title. 

The Rangers kept the Panther boys on their heels throughout the first quarter, but the boys were able to battle back to a 28-24 lead by the end of the first half.

PHS found the spark they were looking for, and a new team hit the court in the third quarter. 

The rest of the game remained a shootout. And with two key 3-pointers from Ratcliff to tie and Erikson to take the lead, the Panthers were able to push ahead by 7 to seal the deal.

Fans and players celebrated as the Panthers hoisted the Regional title. The boys will go into the 2022 3A State Championship Tournament as the No. 1 seed.

“I don’t think overconfidence is an issue with this group,” Heny said. “They’ve worked hard, and know they have to continue work hard every game to do well.”

The Lady Panthers also competed on their home court for the regional title that weekend. However, they were unable to gain a foothold and their season came to an end. 

The girls took on the Lady Eagles Friday. While the game was hard fought, the girls quickly fell behind and walked off the court with a 21-42 loss.

“Our team gave a great defensive effort as we always do,” junior Megan Jacobsen said. “But we couldn’t get in rhythm on the offensive end. We struggled to convert free throws and shots we would normally make.”

The next day, the Lady Panthers, their backs against the wall, faced off against Worland’s Lady Warriors. The girls fought hard, but the superior Worland offense would not be stopped.

The Lady Panthers’ season ended with a 28-39 defeat.

”Our biggest downfall was we didn’t shoot the ball a lot,” Junior Maddie Campbell said. “And we had a lot of unforced turnovers.”

The boys will travel to Casper to take on Thermopolis in the second game of the State Tournament.

“I feel like as a team we are closer than ever,” Ratcliff said. “And this is the best time for it. We wanna bring it home.”