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December 04, 2008 4:19 am

PHS girls kick off season Friday

Written by Tribune Staff

Looking to build on success

A youthful, but experienced Lady Panther basketball team will kick off its 2008-09 season Friday night in Cody. At 5 p.m. in the Sweitzer Gym, they'll begin a quest to better last year's fourth-place finish.

“We're looking forward to getting out there on the floor,” said PHS head coach Luke Danforth, following three weeks of practice.

The team will be led by three returning seniors — Kelsey Allen, Darcee Lynn and McKenzie Danforth.

McKenzie Danforth received honorable mention for the 3A West All-Conference team last season. She and Allen were among class 3A's sharpest three-point shooters.

Rounding out the starting five are juniors Hannah Pollart and Savannah Donarski. Pollart led the team in scoring and rebounding last season, picking up All-Conference and Class 3A All-State honors along the way.

Donarski also was a top rebounder for the squad last year, earning honorable mention for All-Conference.

They'll be joined on the varsity squad by fellow juniors Kami Cooley and Katie Kipp, who also had significant playing time last season. The Lady Panthers also will add junior Lauren Fagnant into the mix, who sat out last season with an injury.

Rounding out the varsity roster are sophomores Shellie Williams, Leslie Thronburg, Olivia Rogers and Randi Asay.

“We have a strong sophomore contingency that is going to help us a bunch,” Coach Danforth said.

He noted that the squad has 10 returning letter-winners.

“I think we're a little young, but we've got good experience,” he said.

Five sophomores will make up the Lady Panthers' junior varsity squad — Shelby McIntosh, Tamara Brown, Hannah Groves, Trisha Skelton, and Marquette McArthur.

Danforth said he's got a “very good group of girls” this year.

In the 2007-08 season, the Lady Panthers went 19-9 overall, and 9-5 in the 3A West Conference.

At the conference tournament, they took third place, earning them a trip to Casper for the 3A state tourney.

There, the Lady Panthers took down Newcastle, 60-49, then fell to the 3A champion Jackson Lady Broncs 49-33, before ending their season with a 61-49 loss to Worland. That put them fourth of the 16 teams in class 3A.

“We'd like to build on that,” Danforth said. “It was nice to go to Casper.”

The Lady Panthers will have their work cut out for them. They lost three solid starters to graduation — Briana Jeffs, Katie Patterson and Abby Pollart, and Danforth expects nearly every team in the conference to improve.

“There aren't any bunnies on our schedule,” he said. “It's a very meaty conference, so we're going to have to show up every night.”

However, Danforth is looking forward to the challenge.

“I'm very confident in the ability of this team,” he said.

Danforth said opponents can expect to see a fast Lady Panther offensive.

“We're going to try to keep it up-tempo,” he said.

On defense, Danforth said the plan is to keep things “very aggressive.” He said with this year's team a little shorter than last's, the defensive game plan will call for lots of pressure on opposing ball-handlers.

The squad averaged 53.2 points per game last season, while yielding only 44.6 to their opponents.

Danforth said practices have gone well, adding that the Cody tourney will be a good measuring stick for the squad.

The Lady Panthers take on Newcastle at 5 p.m. on Friday, then face Rawlins at 11:30 Saturday morning. They'll finish off Cody's 2008 East/West Classic with a 6 p.m. match-up against Wheatland. All varsity games will be in Cody's Sweitzer Gym.