Panther girls hang tough as season comes to an end
The season ended earlier than hoped for the Powell High School’s girls basketball team, as the Lady Panthers were stopped short at last weekend’s Class 3A West Regional Tournament in Riverton.
Powell won its first game against Pinedale, 37-27, but lost the next two games against Mountain View, 38-34, and Cody, 30-22.
It’s the first time since the 2006-07 season that the Lady Panthers will not make the trip to state.
“If you would have said, ‘you are only going to have 27 turnovers total this weekend and not go to state,’ I would not have believed you,” said PHS head coach Scott McKenzie. “The girls took care of the ball, they did everything right. We just could not make a shot from the perimeter.”
Powell 37, Pinedale 27
Things started well for the Lady Panthers in Thursday’s first round.
“It was a great first round game for us, to get us started and get us one win closer to going to state,” McKenzie said.
The Lady Panthers avenged a previous loss to the Wranglers, winning 37-27 and holding Pinedale’s top scorer to only three points.
Pinedale’s Shantelle Rule had scored 24 points in the Wranglers’ Feb. 3 win, but this time, the Lady Panthers stifled Rule by playing a box one zone defense.
“It worked to perfection; we couldn’t have drawn it up better,” McKenzie said of the defensive game plan.
In the scheme, one player stayed on Rule the entire game and the other four players played in a box zone (two high and two low) to cover the rest of the Pinedale’s players.
Three points represented Rule’s lowest output of the year, and McKenzie said Rachelle Cole and Aubrie Stenerson should get the credit for guarding Rule.
“They just did a fantastic job, very proud of them,” said McKenzie of Cole and Aubrie Stenerson, adding. “Very proud of the other girls, they kind of played a zone if you will and took care of everybody else.”
Pinedale’s high scorer had eight points. Powell’s high scorer was Aubrie Stenerson with 18 points, who shot 9-for-11 at the free throw line.
At the end of the first quarter Powell led 11-10 — thanks in part to six points from Rachel Bonander — and they built that lead to 19-13 at the half.
“I thought holding them to three points in the second quarter was big momentum for us going into halftime,” said McKenzie.
Powell came out in the second half and held on to the lead to make it 26-20 going into the final quarter of play.
On offense, the Lady Panthers took care of the ball and only had seven turnovers. From the free throw line, Powell shot 69.6 percent.
Rachel Bonander finished with eight points and 10 rebounds — six on offense and four on defense.
Dani Asay led in assists with three and Jennifer Bonander had three blocks.
The win over Pinedale put Powell in the semi-final game against Mountain View on Friday.
Mountain View 38, Powell 34
The Lady Buffaloes came out to take an 8-0 lead in the opening minutes of Friday’s first quarter.
“This was a game of two completely different halves,” said McKenzie.
In the first half, Powell scored only 13 points, while Mountain View scored 15 in just the first quarter. The Lady Buffaloes held a 23-13 lead going into halftime.
“We could have folded the tents and said, ‘well, it is what it is; we’ll try again tomorrow,’ but they fought and battled back,” the coach said of his squad.
With 50 seconds remaining in the third quarter, a basket from PHS junior Maddy Hanks pulled Powell to within one point: 25-24.
Mountain View increased the lead back up to three, 27-24, going into the fourth quarter, but coach McKenzie “was really proud of the girls; they continued to battle.”
Battle the Lady Panthers did, decreasing the Buffaloes’ lead with each passing minute of the fourth quarter to eventually tie the game at 31 with 3:40 remaining.
“We kind of said, if we get the lead, I think we’ve got them. And I think the girls just pressed the issue a couple times, and tried to make that great play to get ahead instead of just continuing to do what got us tied,” said coach McKenzie.
But the win was not meant to be as with 53 seconds remaining and Powell trailing by one, Mountain View made a 3-point basket to turn the game into a two-possession game.
Mountain View won 38-34.
“We battled all the way to the end and was really proud of the effort,” said coach McKenzie.
Powell had only 12 turnovers during the game and shot 16.7 percent at the arc, 46.4 percent on 2-point shots and making 2-of-5 free throws (40 percent).
Rachel Bonander led the team with 11 points, scoring seven in the fourth quarter alone.
Both Jennifer Bonander and Hanks had seven rebounds to lead the team.
Aubrie Stenerson had four assists and three steals
Cody 30, Powell 22
The loss to Mountain View placed the Lady Panthers in the loser out game against Cody Saturday morning.
“It was poor timing for us to go stone cold, especially in a loser out game,” said coach McKenzie.
Leading 11-9 after the first quarter, Powell only scored four points in the second period, but still led 15-14 going into halftime.
However, in the second half, Cody came out to outscore Powell 16-7 to win 30-22.
“We could not make a perimeter shot,” said McKenzie. “We were ice cold.”
Powell shot 18.6 percent from the field.
“Sometimes it’s hard to beat a team three times, and that ended up being the case for us this time,” McKenzie said. “Hats off to them, they did enough to beat us.”
Powell had only eight turnovers in the game and stole the ball six times, with Rachel Bonander leading the team with three steals.
Tayli Stenerson led the team with eight points and Hanks had four assists and seven boards — six on defense and one on offense.
“Both teams put their hearts out there,” said McKenzie.
The loss to Cody ended the basketball season for the Lady Panthers.
In McKenzie’s combined total of 28 years of coaching girls’ and boys’ basketball, it was only the fourth time his team did not qualify for state.
“Feel horrible for our seniors,” he said of Tayli Stenerson, Dani Asay, Rachelle Cole and Jennifer Bonander. “They played their hearts out for us all year.”
The coach described Tayli Stenerson as the floor general who ran the team’s offense.
“She was our heartbeat and she kept us going through the good times and bad,” said McKenzie.
Asay was the team’s calmness and rock.
“She could keep everything in perspective and keep everyone on an even keel,” said McKenzie adding that she is tough. Asay played with a bad shoulder all season, the coach said, adding, “She gave us everything that she had.”
In coach McKenzie’s opinion, Cole was the most improved player this year.
“We weren’t sure what Rachelle (Cole’s) role was going to be for us as a senior and she crashed the boards, she did all of the little things that some players don’t like to do. And Cole stepped in there and did all those things for us,” said McKenzie. “Really proud of the season that she had”
“(Jennifer Bonander) was our size and strength. One of the best perimeter post players that I’ve coached,” said McKenzie, noting she made four 3-point baskets this season.
“She gained respect from so many teams because she was double- and triple-teamed all season — and that’s a credit to the presence inside she had for us,” said McKenzie.
He said he’d miss all four seniors “a great deal.”
“They’re wonderful young ladies; they have bright futures ahead of them,” McKenzie said. “They‘re all very smart and going to do great things in the future.”
Coach McKenzie also wanted to thank the parents, “from freshmen through varsity,” for their support this year.
Of the freshman program, coach McKenzie said the team “improved immensely from middle school to their first year of high school,” adding that “we’re excited about their futures.”
The junior varsity also had a great season and McKenzie said it’s a sign of what’s to come for Lady Panther basketball.
For the varsity squad, “we had a good journey this year; we had a fun journey,” said coach McKenzie. “I think that if the girls laid all the good and the bad out, in my heart I think they would all agree that it was an enjoyable season and that they learned a lot about basketball and about themselves.”
Coach McKenzie also thanked his two “fantastic” coaches — Troy Hildebrand and Gary Phister — for all their hard work this year. It will be Phister’s last year, as the freshman coach is moving.
“We’re going to miss him. he’s been an important part of our program,” said McKenzie. “He’s done a great job of getting the girls skill-wise and attitude-wise prepared for JV and varsity and we wish him the best in all his future endeavors.”
As for what’s next for the Lady Panthers, “we’re really excited for the future,” McKenzie said. “We have some good varsity experience coming back and we plan to be right back in Casper a year from now.”