The Powell High School Lady Panthers basketball team opens its season Friday at Cody's East-West Invitational.
After three weeks of “really good” practices, “We're very excited to get on the floor and see how it goes,” said PHS head coach Luke Danforth.
PHS is slated to take on Newcastle at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, and then face Rawlins at 10 a.m. and Wheatland on Saturday.
The Lady Panthers are coming off a successful 2009-2010 campaign where they finished 22-5 in the regular season (12-2 in conference play). PHS was the runner-up in Class 3A after falling in an double-overtime heartbreaker to Jackson in the championship bout.
In the 2010-2011 season, Danforth said the team is expecting big things and strong leadership from its three seniors — Leslie Thronburg, Olivia Rogers and Randi Asay.
Thronburg was a starter throughout last season, averaging 7.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Rogers also played a big role in the Panthers' success off the bench, averaging 4.6 points and 3.8 rebounds.
Asay sat out last season with an injury, but is a two-time letter winner who suited up for the state tournament team as a freshman and sophomore, Danforth said.
The juniors on the Lady Panthers' roster are Kendra Ostrom, who played in 22 varsity games last season, and Savannah Holt, who Danforth said has shown a lot of growth.
Backing up those upperclassmen on the varsity and junior varsity squads will be what Danforth calls “a great core” of seven sophomores. The sophomores are coming off a successful freshman campaign in 2009-2010, but will need to adjust to varsity game speed, Danforth said.
“We're confident that they're up to the task,” he said.
Danforth said he plans to use different starting lineups depending on who the Lady Panthers face. He said the team is still refining its players' roles.
The Lady Panthers lost four seniors to graduation, including their two top scorers and rebounders — All State players Hannah Pollart (15.8 points per game, 10.1 rebounds) and Savannah Donarski (10.6 points, 8.5 rebounds).
“Everybody's going to have to step up in scoring this year,” Danforth said.
The coach said the team's offense and defense schemes will remain largely unchanged, but the team plans to be more aggressive in shooting from the perimeter, rather than being quite so reliant on post scoring.
“If anything, we'll probably bring a bit more balance to the floor than we have in recent years,” said Danforth.
While the team is not gigantic, the coach said the PHS ladies are not small either, with a half-dozen or so players 5'9” or taller.
Danforth said the team has things to work on, specifically pointing to its defensive presence, but he noted it's early in the season.
“I think every team's probably saying that right now,” he said.
He predicts Class 3A West will be very competitive in the coming season.
Teams the Lady Panthers split matches with last season — Mountain View (21-9 overall, 10-4 in conference play), Cody (19-10, 9-5) and Lander (13-12, 8-6) — return most of their lineups, Danforth said.
The Jackson Lady Broncs lost a significant number of their players to graduation, Danforth said, but he noted the JHS squad is the four-time defending state champion in Class 3A. Jackson was ranked No. 1 in the opening WyoPreps.com coaches and media poll.
Danforth expects to see improved squads from Lyman (6-18, 1-13) and Pinedale (4-19, 1-13).
For the Lady Panthers' part, “the goal this season is to pick up where we left off last year,” the coach said.