Delta's Panthers played two key 4A WSL contests this past week. On Tuesday, Delta was at home against Rifle and visited Steamboat Springs on Saturday.
Delta lost the girls' game, 41-25, on Tuesday and fell, 50-44, to the Sailors on Saturday.
Delta's boys turned the wins and losses around against the same opponents, winning a thriller, 45-40, over Rifle and dropping a 53-45 decision to Steamboat on Saturday.
Rifle 41, Delta 25
A late run in the fourth quarter was way too late and definitely too little against Rifle.
Rifle's defense was good enough to hold the Panthers to single-digit numbers all four quarters of the game. The Bears' offense hit double-digits in all but the final quarter where Delta outscored them 9-2.
The Bears were leading, 25-12 at halftime and managed to outscore Delta, 16-13 in second-half play, to preserve the important 4A WSL win.
Emily Nortnik was Delta's leading scorer with 11 points.
Rifle (10-2 and 14-4) had two players in double figures, Emily Neuroth (14) and Elly Walters with 12 points.
Sailors 50, Delta 44
A lethargic beginning in Steamboat Springs spelled the end for Delta on Saturday. Even though the Panthers trailed by just one point at the end of the first period, inconsistent play led to key turnovers and mental miscues that prevented more points from being scored.
The Panthers had a better second quarter offensively and scored 15 points to take a 25-22 halftime lead. The inside play of Nortnik highlighted Delta's first half as the dominating junior scored 10 points in the first quarter and another five markers in the second period.
The Sailors put together a small run that accounted for 12 points while an inept Delta offense posted just six points in the third quarter.
Steamboat took advantage of the Panthers' need to foul in order to get the ball back and went to the free-throw line for 15 attempts, converting on nine of those shots.
Nortnik scored 11 points in the second half for Delta and finished as the game's leading scorer with 26 points. Raya Duryea tossed in 17 points to lead Steamboat Springs' shooters.
The Panthers fell to 4-8 and 7-10 and are in sixth place in the 4A WSL race.
Delta has a chance to move up, and possibly make a post-season playoff appearance, with wins over Eagle Valley (8-2 and 11-5) and Summit (4-8 and 8-10) on Friday and Saturday respectively. Friday's game is at 6 p.m., and a 2 p.m. start time is set for Saturday.
Delta 45, Rifle 40
The Bears may have been confident when they entered the Panther Den, but they weren't prepared for what Delta had waiting for them.
The Bears, undefeated in league play, had just one loss against them after a 50-40 loss to Central back on Jan. 6.
Neither team's offense was a tower of strength, with the Bears holding a 9-8 lead after one period of play.
A second-quarter effort by the Panthers provided some breathing room for Delta after a 15-4 surge and a 23-17 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Delta used Beau Byers' six points to stretch the Panthers' lead to 31-21.
Rifle's Jacob Boone scored 11 of his team-high 16 points in the fourth period and the Bears (11-1 and 16-2) shaved five points off Delta's lead before the game ended, 45-40.
Delta shot 19 free throws in the fourth frame alone and converted 10. Byers, who was Delta's leading scorer, had 11 of those free throws and missed all of them.
Coach Von Mitchell beamed with pride after the game. His genuine affection for his players is undeniable. After the win over the Bears, Mitchell's response to how he felt about the win, and his boys, was, "Beautiful, man. Just beautiful."
Sailors 53, Delta 45
In Steamboat Springs, an ugly first half resulted in a 17-15 lead for the
Sailors. Play was sporadic, with numerous mistakes by both teams.
The game's tempo increased in second-half action with the Sailors finding the bottom of the net for 19 third-quarter points, 12 of which came via 3-point goals. The Panthers were able to stay within striking distance with 13 points in the same time frame.
Steamboat's Jon Rinck broke loose for eight points in the final period to lead the Sailors' 17-point attack. Delta's Byers had a similar offensive output with an 11-point effort that helped the Panthers (3-9 and 7-10) score 17 points as well. Byers finished with 15 points to lead Delta's offense.
Rinck had 18 to pace Steamboat's shooters.
Delta, after Tuesday's game against Basalt, has two regular season games remaining on its schedule. On Friday, the Panthers play Eagle Valley (3-7 and 9-11) at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday's contest against Summit (1-10 and 1-16) is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.
The seventh annual Eckert Crane Days, the annual viewing of the sandhill cranes migrating north from New Mexico through Colorado's West Slope, will be March 16-18. Representatives from the Black Canyon Chapter of the Audubon Society (BCAS) will be at the viewing site east of Eckert at Fruitgrowers Reservoir, 9 to 11 a.m. each day, to answer questions and provide binoculars and spotting scopes.