Imbler made a valiant effort to trim an early 16-4 deficit down to five on several occasions, but was never able to completely dig itself out of the early hole.

Regann Skinner scored 22 points, and visiting Jordan Valley bolted out in front early, then pulled away late for a 38-22 win at Imbler Thursday to hand the Panthers their first loss of the season.

Imbler head coach Darci Sweet pointed to rebounding, particularly on the offensive end for the Mustangs, as one of the keys to the outcome.

“I think that was the biggest difference in the game,” Sweet said. “We allowed way too many second chance points. They’re a good team. We could have had a little better effort, but it’s early in the season. A lot of things we can improve on.”

The Mustangs grabbed 16 offensive boards, one of which was put back in by Nicole Terry to give Jordan Valley its 12-point edge late in the first quarter. Terry, who had 10 points and seven rebounds, grabbed five on the offensive glass.

The Panthers finally got going after the slow start. A Gracey Smith layup and 3-pointer by Hannah Kilpatrick, who led Imbler with seven points, pulled Imbler within 16-9 after the first quarter.

“We didn’t let up. That’s for sure,” Sweet said of the team’s response after the early deficit. “I really think our lack of rebounding was what hurt us the most. If we could have continued to work hard, box out and not give them second-chance points, it would have made a bigger difference for us.”

A layup by Kilpatrick cut the deficit to 16-11 midway through a low-scoring second quarter, which ended with Jordan Valley up 18-12 after the teams combined for five points on 2-for-24 shooting. The Panthers cut the deficit to five three more times, the last at 24-19 on Anika McDonald’s field goal late in the third. But the Mustangs ended the game on a 14-3 run, with Skinner scoring the final nine points of the game.

Along with Kilpatrick, Caysie McGinness added five points for the Panthers. Both teams, though, struggled from the floor. The Mustangs shot 18-for-56, largely impacted by a woeful 1-for-19 effort in the second quarter. Imbler, meanwhile, was just 9-for-37. The Panthers also hurt themselves with 25 turnovers.

Sweet said there’s still a learning curve for Imbler, which is trying to replace four key seniors from last year’s squad that finished fifth in the state.

“We’re definitely trying to figure out how we’re going to be the most successful,” she said. “We have a lot of inexperienced kids out there right now.”

Playing a team like Jordan Valley, Sweet said, helps.

“It definitely makes us better,” she said. “Any time we can see a good, tough, competitive team that works that hard against us, it’s going to make us better.”

Kilpatrick added three steals, and Trinity McKaig grabbed eight rebounds for Imbler (2-1 overall), which faces Irrigon today at the Heppner Invitational.