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December 11, 2012 9:27 am

Lady Panthers dominate Jackson

Written by CJ Baker

Has favor returned by Star Valley

Powell High School’s girls basketball team played solid defense in a pair of weekend contests. Unfortunately, the offense was more inconsistent.

The hosting Lady Panthers (4-1 overall, 1-1 in Class 3A West) thumped Jackson 39-23 on Friday night before falling 30-18 to Star Valley on Saturday afternoon.

PHS head coach Scott McKenzie was pleased with the team’s man-to-man defense all weekend. The offense executed well on Friday against Jackson, the coach said, before struggling against Star Valley.

“We’re still doing really well, just had one bad hiccup,” said McKenzie, adding that the team will learn from the loss and get better.

Jackson (0-5 overall, 0-2 in Class 3A West) went up 8-5 late in the first quarter, but the lead vanished behind a basket from Tori Sleep and a 3-pointer from Brooke Lensegrav. That made it 10-8 at the close of the first quarter.

The Lady Broncs knotted things back up early in the second quarter, but — led by six points from Jenni Ebersberger — PHS closed out the half on a 9-0 run for a 19-10 half-time lead.

Jackson pulled within six points, 21-15, about half-way through the third period, but the Lady Panthers responded with a rally of their own.

In a two-minute span, PHS used a 3-pointer from Alyssa Hildebrand, a pair of free throws from Ebersberger, a 3-pointer from Tess Mitchell and another basket from Ebersberger to turn the tight contest into a comfortable one. Just like that, Powell had Jackson doubled up, 32-16, at the end of three quarters.

PHS’ 17-1 run carried into the fourth quarter and to 38-16 advantage.

The Lady Panthers were deadly from beyond the arc, making five of 11 3-point attempts.

McKenzie noted the team’s great support from the bench.

“That piece of the puzzle’s kind of coming together for us,” he said.

Ebersberger, a guard, led the team with 12 points off the bench on four-of-eight shooting from the floor and three-of-four shooting from the free throw line.

“We have expectations for her to be a scoring threat when she comes in the game and it was nice to see her finally do that,” McKenzie said.

Sleep added seven points and six rebounds off the bench in the post.

“It’s nice to have one of our first guards and our first posts coming in and contributing,” McKenzie said. He said the experience all 12 varsity players are getting will pay off as the season continues.

Mitchell added six points and Hildebrand five. Shawnae Harrington, Brooke Lensegrav and Megan Wagner each contributed three points to the win.

Wagner led the field with a “really good” 11-rebound performance, McKenzie said.

“Everyone’s sharing the ball and passing it,” the coach added, pointing to the 13 assists.

Things did not go as well against Star Valley (3-0, 2-0). The Lady Braves grabbed a 6-2 lead with about 2:30 remaining in the first quarter and their lead only grew from there.

Powell managed just four points in the first quarter, then was shut out in the second. The Lady Braves didn’t find a lot of success on offense, but their 16 first-half points were plenty against PHS’ four.

“Scoring four points in the first half was a hard pill to swallow. We tried everybody and there was definitely Saran wrap over our rim,”  McKenzie said. “We tried everything and everybody and it just didn’t work for us, and a credit to Star Valley: they played solid.”

The Lady Panthers, he said, didn’t attack the basket and gave up some easy baskets while missing some easy ones on their end.

Any chance of a Powell comeback was crushed when Star Valley hit two 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the second half to take a 22-4 advantage.

The Lady Panthers didn’t give up, though. From that point on, the Powell girls outscored Star Valley 14 to 8. That included breaking through for a 10-5 advantage in the fourth quarter and holding Star Valley without a field goal in the period.

“We didn’t quit,” said McKenzie. “The girls played the entire time, which we were very proud of. They could have easily said, ‘Aw, heck,’ but they didn’t. They played all the way to the end.”

Hildebrand had four points, while Mitchell and Ebersberger each had three. Kadi Cooley, Harrington, Lensegrav and Wagner had two points apiece. Harrington and Wagner led the Lady Panthers with five rebounds each. Hildebrand had five of the team’s 14 steals.

In the final result, McKenzie also sees some positives.

“To truly score four points in the first and truly to only lose by 12 points, we felt pretty good. We can play with them,” he said. “We look forward to going there and trying again against these guys.”

First up, however, is a 5:30 p.m. match-up with Class 2A Lovell (2-2) at the Panther gym. That will send PHS into the winter break.

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