After winning only eight games in 2014 when they went 8-18, coach Mike Strong has turned the fortunes of the Pahranagat Valley boys basketball around. The team was 15-10 in 2015, and state runner-up. In 2016, they were 18-10, made the playoffs again, but lost out to No. 1 seed Word of Life in the southern regional semifinals.
This season the Panthers look to have a veteran senior dominated team with Christian Higbee, Tyson Jorgenson, Cody Williams, Tabor Maxwell, Ike Taylor, and Zach Hansen. Daved Wilson is considering not playing this year, opting for rodeo instead. And the team will have some excellent height on the back line led by 6-foot-9-inch junior Culen Highbe, and 6-foot-5-inch transfer student Richard Lewis.
Highbe played with an elite Las Vegas AAU team this summer that featured two Division I prospects from Las Vegas, including Troy Brown who recently signed a letter of intent with the University of Oregon. He traveled to many places around the country for tournaments and says he is “definitely ready to bring what he learned this summer to the high school game.”
However, regardless of who Strong has on his returning roster, the fact that nearly all of them will have only one week of official practice before the season starts because of going late into football will be a bit difficult. But then again, it has been that way for these boys all their high school careers, and they are used to it.
Looking at the Panthers schedule this season, the boys have their first six games on the road. They start with the Wells Rural Electric tournament this week, Dec. 1-3, including Wells, Tonopah, Round Mountain, Eureka, and Owyhee.
The following week they play at Moapa Valley Dec. 6, then go to Beaver Dam for the Snake Pit Classic Dec. 9-10 with Beaver Dam, Sandy Valley, Beatty and Liberty Baptist.
The first home game is with Calvary Chapel Dec. 13. The last time the Panthers played the Lions was in 2010, which they won 42-25.
On Dec. 15, Wells makes a visit to Alamo. Pahranagat holds a 4-2 edge on the Leopards since 2005 and has won the last two meetings, not counting what may happen at this year’s tournament in Wells.
The boys close out the non-league schedule with a game before Christmas and one after Christmas. They host Lincoln County Dec. 20, and go to Lake Mead Dec. 29.
After the New Year, the team has seven of their 11 remaining games at home, with the first league game at Indian Springs Jan. 6. A non-league game follows Jan. 7 at Virgin Valley in Mesquite.
League play continues after that, except for one more non-league game with Mountain View Jan. 28.
The final league game before the playoffs is Feb. 2 with Beaver Dam in Alamo.
The league playoffs are Feb. 15-18, and the state tournament is Feb. 24-25 in Las Vegas at a site yet to be determined.