Showing their depth: Leithead: ‘It felt good to be back home’

Eddie Poe photo
Ian Knudsen pulls up for a shot through the Glenrock defense. 

By: 
Eddie Poe eddie@hpsentinel.com

One of the deepest teams in the state took its home court for the first time this season Tuesday night looking to extend its three-game winning streak and continue building on its best start in recent memory.
In the process, the Wright Panthers proved again why they’re a formidable opponent through the first month of play. Against the upstart Glenrock Herders, a team that won its first eight games but dropped the following two, head coach Pat Neely might’ve gotten his best look at the Panthers’ true range of depth.
Senior guard Ace Leithead scored a team-high 18 points to go along with seven rebounds, six assists and four steals to lead Wright (9-1) past Glenrock 71-55. Fellow senior Cody Thompson second-bested Leithead with a double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds and was joined by center Logan Robb who finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Senior guard Jaren Fritz led Glenrock (8-3) with 17 points.
“It felt good to be back home,” Leithead said following the win. “We came out quick on them and our big men played great tonight.”
Over two weeks removed from scoring 62 points in the first half in an 80-42 win over Tongue River, the Panthers wasted no time with Glenrock and jumped out to a 25-16 lead in the first quarter. They followed up with 17 points in the second quarter and led 42-26 at halftime.
Further sparked in the second half by Jayden Vasquez and Kc Krieter off the bench, Wright forced 21 turnovers and overwhelmed the Herders on the boards 44-34. As had been the case in their eight previous wins, the Panthers relied on a quick start and smart shot selection to subdue the opposition.
“We always try to emphasize starting games quick,” Neely pointed out. “It’s really important to set the tone for the game early.”
Krieter contributed 12 points off the bench for Wright to go along with two from Perry Benedict.
“Even though he only scored two points, I thought Perry (Benedict) did a great job coming off the bench for us with three rebounds. He gave us some nice time when our bigs got into foul trouble.”
In a matchup that they knew would test their limits, the Panthers stood tall against the task and are hovering somewhere between clicking on all cylinders and nearly there.
The defense had its fair share of moments against Glenrock, allowing easy scores down the stretch and especially to start the second half. But after committing 40 turnovers against Wyoming Indian in their only loss of the season, Neely feels confident in his team’s ability to learn from their mistakes.
“As an opponent you can key a couple players but when four guys are in double figures, it’s tough because everyone is capable of scoring,” Neely said. “We still have some things to fine tune but this team has gotten stronger and more mature with another year under their belt.”
Perhaps more impressive than Wright’s recent four-game winning streak in which it’s averaging 75.3 points per game, its big men down low Thompson and Robb overwhelmed Glenrock near the basket and limited its bench to just six points.
In the end, the Panthers secured early season cross-town bragging rights.
“It’s something to build on,” Neely added about the win.
Sitting at 9-1, Wright owns the best record in 2A and according to WyoPreps, is now the second-ranked team in the conference. The Panthers return to their home court Friday at 4 p.m. to face Tongue River before traveling to South Dakota Saturday to take on Belle Fourche.

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