Panthers advance to State semi-finals; fall to Manhattan Christian, Melstone

By 
CHRIS MCCONNELL
Outlook Staff Writer
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Outlook photos by Chris McConnell.

Park City junior Connor McNeil has a good look at a buzzer-beating jump shot to send the game into overtime against Melstone in the elimination game of the State Class C Championship at Butte Civic Center on Saturday morning. McNeil’s shot bounced off the back of the rim and the Panther’s fell to the Broncs, 53-51. Park City beat Fairview on Thursday to advance to their first State semi-finals since 2006, then fell to state runner-up Manhattan Christian on Friday.

 

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The opening tip-off is seen during the Panthers loser-out game against Melstone on Saturday morning at the State C tournament in Butte. Connor McNeil (15) just missed a game-tying jumper at the buzzer that would have sent the 53-51 game into overtime. The Broncs moved on to win the consolation game and take 3rd.

 

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The Panther bench and Park City fans are seen during Friday’s Class C State semi-final matchup against Manhattan Christian at the Butte Civic Center. After defeating Fairview 50-44 on Thursday to advance to the semis, the Panthers fell to the Eagles 74-50, and were eliminated by Melstone Saturday morning.

 

 

The Park City Panthers’ historic 2018 tournament run came to an end on Saturday morning at the State Class C Tournament in Butte after falling to Melstone 53-51 in the Southern C rematch.

Five days removed from their historic Southern C Divisional title, the Panthers faced Eastern C runners-up Fairview last Thursday at the Butte Civic Center for the State quarterfinal game. They kept the momentum going from their Divisional title in Laurel the prior week and downed 2-seed Fairview 50–44 to advance to their first State semi-final game since 2006.

The Panthers jumped out to a 13-point halftime lead after outscoring the Warriors 15–3 in the second quarter.

Fairview clawed back to within three to start the fourth, but the Panthers held on to win by six 50–44. Gauthier finished the game with 26 points, went 13–14 from the free-throw line and had six steals and two blocks. Austin Popp had six points and 14 rebounds

Gauthier stretched his 20-point tournament streak to four games with a 26-point performance.

In Friday’s semi-final game against last year’s state runner-ups–Manhattan Christian–early foul trouble, poor shooting and turnovers allowed the Eagle’s high powered offense to take a 30-16 lead in at the half.

The Panthers had 14 first-half turnovers, shot 18 percent from the field and Connor McNeil and Popp had three fouls, and Tristen Johnstone two.

The MC defense was all over Gauthier, denying him the ball, blocking the lanes and holding him to just 13 points for the game.

The Eagles had hot shooting in the second half, including seven threes and 56 percent shooting to extend their lead to 58-30 on a 28-point third quarter. Park City outscored MC 20-16 in the fourth, but dropped the game 74-50.

Park City shot 28 percent for the game and finished with 20 turnovers.

Gauthier led the team with 13 points and two steals, Talon Johnstone had 9 points and 12 rebounds, Caleb Van Doren had 10 points and a block and McNeil had 9.

In the elimination game on Saturday morning, the Panthers faced Melstone, who lost their opening round game on a controversial play against Scobey with one second left.

Park City had downed the undefeated (at the time) Broncs in Laurel 44-42 during their historic Southern C Divisional run.

The Panther’s were a little banged up, as junior Tristen Johnstone had a mean looking shiner and stitches after catching a nasty, but inadvertent, elbow in the eye against the Eagles the night before.

Park City struggled shooting for the consecutive second game, with just a 29 percent first half on 10–34 shooting. Despite that, the defense played well and they limited turnovers.

Down 33-23 at the half, the defense played strong in the third quarter but the offense continued to struggle. Five consecutive times Park City stopped the Broncs but failed to convert any points.

The fourth quarter began with the score 39-30 and the Panthers began to gain a little momentum. With 4:40 left in the game, Gauthier finally connected on a three and Garrett McMillen drained another one on their next possession to pull within three, 46-43. After a Gauthier steal, a foul and two free-throws the Panthers were within one, 46-45 with 3:40 left. Two buckets by the Broncs and the lead was back up to five before McNeil converted on a layup and-one to pull within two 48-50 with 2:00 left. The Broncs were fouled and converted one, then McNeil was fouled and made both to make it a 51-50 with 1:30.

On the next Bronc possession, the Panthers went for a turnover and the play resulted in what appeared to be an obvious jump ball that would have given possession to the Panthers, but a foul was called and the Broncs converted one free-throw.

With 14.4 seconds left Popp was fouled with a chance to tie the game at 52. He missed the first and drained the second to make it 52-51. Gauthier had a quick foul on the inbounds play, his fifth, and the Bronc converted one to make the game 53-51 with 6.8 seconds left and Park City ball.

With time running out, McNeill drove down the right lane and got a good look at a 12-foot jumper as the buzzer sounded, but the ball was slightly too long and bounced off the back of the rim giving the Broncs the two-point win.

Talon Johnston led the team with 18 points and nine rebounds. McNeil added 12, Gauthier 9 and McMillen 6.

Park City finished regular season with one conference loss, took 2nd at District, 1st at Divisionals and finished (unofficialy) 5th in State out of the 104 schools comprising 83 Class C teams in Montana. They raised the bar for a program that hadn’t been to the State Tournament in 12 years and hadn’t won Divisionals in 30.

Well played, Panthers.

 

Finished the season 21–5.

Park City 50, Fairview 44

Park City 11 15 10 14 – 50

Fairview 10 3 20 11 – 44

Park City: Rylan Gauthier 26, Connor McNeil 8, Talon Johnstone 8, Austin Popp 6, Garrett McMillen 2.

Fairview: Cody Asbeck 11, Alex Schriver 11, Carson Cayko 7, Josh Herron 6.

 

Manhattan Christian 74,

Park City 50

MC 11 19 28 16 – 74

Park City 9 7 14 20 – 50

MC: Caleb Bellach 35, Sam Leep 10, Caden Hill 10, Matthew Amunrud 7, Ryan Busch 6.

Park City: Gauthier 13, Caleb Van Doren 10, McNeil 9, Johnstone 9, Seth Popp 3, Austin Dennis 2, Tristen Johnstone 2, Tucker Johnstone 2.

 

Melstone 53, Park City 51

Melstone 18 15 6 14 – 53

Park City 14 9 7 21 – 51

Melstone: Brody Grebe 21, Isaiah Bouchard 9, Shayden Cooke 6, Beni Jankovits 6, Noah Bouchard 6.

Park City: Tal. Johnstone 18, McNeil 12, Gauthier 9, McMillen 6, Popp 4, Tr. Johnstone 2.

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