The Prairie City Panthers boys basketball team “sounded the bell” Friday night after their 66-49 victory over the Dufur Rangers.

Sounding the Prairie City school’s old-fashioned school bell is an honor reserved for special occasions, including winning a home state playoff contest.

The High Desert League Panthers, ranked No. 9 among OSAA’s 1A teams with a 25-2 overall record, continue their upward climb at the OSAA State Basketball Championships at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, at Baker High School where they will face the No. 1-seed Sherman Huskies (24-3) of the Big Sky League.

One of Sherman’s three losses was to Prairie City on Dec. 27. The Panthers won that contest 54-52 in Prairie City.

In Friday night’s game, Prairie City jumped out ahead from the start scoring 16, while holding Dufur to 3 points.

Levi Burke scored 8 points in the quarter, with Cole Deiter adding 4. Lucas McKinley and Jojari Field scored 2 each with Field sinking a shot at the buzzer.

Dufur’s Trey Darden and Derek Frakes each scored a 3-point shot in the second quarter, and Prairie City’s Syd Holman also landed a 3-pointer. Prairie City outscored Dufur 14-13 to keep a 30-16 lead going into halftime break.

The majority of bleacher seats were filled with Panther fans, many waving orange bandanas as they cheered.

The Rangers narrowed the margin to 8 points in the third when Tanner Masterson and Daniel Radcliffe combined for 6 points at the start.

However, Field, Burke and Deiter went after the rebounds and outscored Dufur 21-16. McKinley sank a 3-pointer in the quarter, and Ranger Cooper Bales landed two 3-pointers, including a long shot at the buzzer.

In the final 8 minutes, Dufur outscored Prairie City 17-15, but the Panthers took the 17-point win.

Dufur head coach Hollie Darden said his team has come a long way since last year, when they didn’t make it to their district tournament.

“This year, we made it to districts,” he said. “We went and beat Joseph in a hostile environment in the first round, a team who had beaten us earlier during the season.”

He said he was proud of the character shown by his team and how well they played defensively.

“Obviously, Prairie was a little bit more athletic on this given night,” coach Darden said. “They had some kids that really came to play and kind of dominated us physically. I was proud of their effort and proud of them for making it this far into the playoffs, and hopefully we’ll come back next year.”

McKinley said he’s excited to make a second trip to the state tournament with his team. Last year, the Panthers had a second-place finish at state.

“We got the ball inside and played good fundamental basketball,” he said of the night’s game.

Holman said they talked about this being their last home game.

“We are an unstoppable train right now — Baker, we’re coming,” he said.

Burke said the most memorable part of the night was how they played as a team.

“Everybody on the team was in it to win it,” he said. “We have some experience now. Last year it was like deer in the headlights.”

Thinking about the upcoming games, Burke said, “We have a big red target on our backs right now.”

Panther head coach Sam Workman said it was a team effort that won the night’s game.

“I’m proud of them,” he said. “It’s fun to watch when they’re playing like this.”

He said, at halftime, he simply told them “keep doing what you’re doing.”

He said they’ll take the same approach in their game with Sherman — “keep playing good basketball.”

Angel Carpenter is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. She can be contacted at angel@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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