With just one player lost to graduation and everyone else returning, it should be no surprise that the Powell High School girls basketball team has high expectations.
The Lady Panthers are coming off an 18-8 season that saw them win the 3A Northwest quadrant and take third place at the state tournament.
“We have a lot of experience,” PHS coach Scott McKenzie said, noting the eight seniors on the roster. “We do have high expectations and we do have high goals. We’re hoping to have a competitive year.”
McKenzie and his squad are not alone in those high expectations entering this season. The Lady Panthers are ranked fourth in Class 3A in the WyoPreps.com preseason coaches’ poll, behind defending state champion Douglas, Lyman and Buffalo, respectively.
Leading the way for Powell this winter will be the senior duo of Rachel Bonander and Aubrie Stenerson. Bonander averaged a double-double last season with 13.5 points and 10 rebounds per game, while Stenerson averaged 10.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and a team-high 2.8 assists and two steals per contest.
“Great leaders, great young ladies, very athletic and they love the game of basketball,” McKenzie said of Stenerson and Bonander, both of whom earned all-conference and all-state honors last season.
Also back are McKenzie’s daughters, twins Karlie and Katie McKenzie, who their dad describes as “hard workers.” Karlie will be Powell’s starting point guard, while coach McKenzie called Katie a good perimeter shooter.
Joining the starting lineup at the two-guard is senior Ashtyn Heny, who led the team in 3-point shooting percentage last season.
Ashtyn is a “good outside shooter,” coach McKenzie said. “She’s had a lot of experience also coming off the bench last year for us.”
Another senior, Jasmyne Lensegrav, is described by her coach as a “great sparkplug” for the team off the bench. “She plays hard, tough-nosed defense for us [and] does nice things to get us going,” coach McKenzie said.
Coach McKenzie also had praise for backup center Devon Curtis.
“Devon Curtis brings some size to the table for us,” coach McKenzie said. “[She has] came a long way. She had played in Meeteetse prior to coming here, so last year was a big curve for her, [going from] playing 1A ball to playing 3A ball. I thought Devon did great things and great minutes for us when Rachel [Bonander] needed a break.”
Also joining Powell last season was Brea Terry, who came over from Greybull and had “a good learning year.”
“I think she was just trying to find her place and trying to find a way to fit in,” coach McKenzie said of Terry. “I thought that her best game last year was our last game, when we beat Star Valley for third. She attacked the rim, she got to the free-throw line, so we’ve talked to her about starting from that last game now and picking up.”
Rounding out coach McKenzie’s first nine will be junior Michele Wagner.
“She’s a sharpshooter from the outside,” coach McKenzie said. “If you don’t guard her, she’s going to make them.”
Wagner will split time between varsity and junior varsity and is slated to be the future point guard.
Of the Lady Panthers’ eight seniors, five of them (Bonander, Stenerson, Lensegrav, Curtis and Heny) were members of Powell’s volleyball team that won the 3A Northwest quadrant and made it to the state tournament last month.
“We always rely on the success of the volleyball season,” coach McKenzie said. “We do have some swimmers and some cross country runners, but the majority of our pipeline, those girls play volleyball as well. For them to qualify for state and to be there just adds confidence for our program and for those girls.”
Powell will hit the ground running when the season starts Friday at the East-West Classic in Lovell. The Lady Panthers will take on Rawlins (unofficially ranked sixth in the state in the WyoPreps poll) at noon
“They’re a solid basketball program,” coach McKenzie said of Rawlins. “They played for the state volleyball championship this year against Lyman. They have great basketball girls.”
As if that is not a tough enough test to open the season, Powell faces off with top-ranked Douglas at 6 p.m.
“They lost one senior like we did,” coach McKenzie said. “We met them in the semifinal at state and we just didn’t get off to a good start — dug a hole and couldn’t get them. They’re very good.”
Other December contests include Pinedale (Saturday at 3 p.m. at Lovell), a trip to Cody on Friday, Dec. 14 and the Lady Panthers’ home opener against Wyoming Indian on Friday, Dec. 21 — the No. 1 team in Class 2A.
“Our month of December is as tough as a coach could ask for,” coach McKenzie said. “We’re looking forward to it.”