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Panther girls trump Riverton

Edged by Cody in nail-biter

Despite a stunning comeback and some last-second heroics from senior Alyssa Hildebrand, the Lady Panther basketball team lost to Cody 51-48 on a last-second basket in overtime Friday. The Powell High School’s girls rebounded with a 30-23 victory over Class 4A Riverton on Saturday.

That PHS (6-4 overall, 1-4 in Class 3A West) forced Cody into overtime was an accomplishment in itself, overcoming a 20 point third quarter deficit.

“We’re most proud of those girls battling,” said PHS head coach Scott McKenzie. “You could have easily called it a night and gotten drubbed, if you will, and these girls continued to play hard all four quarters. And that’s one of the trademarks of this team is they play hard all the time.”

McKenzie said if there’s such a thing as a positive loss, the loss to conference foe Cody (5-6 overall, 3-2 in Class 3A West) was one of them.

The contest started close. With five minutes left in the second quarter, Cody led just 10-9. But the Fillies finished the half with 13 unanswered points. In the third quarter, Cody continued the run to 19 points, taking a seemingly insurmountable 29-9 advantage.

The Lady Panthers, however, battled back for a 30-10 run of their own.

A basket from Tess Mitchell got the PHS scoring going in the third quarter. Over the next five minutes, Jenni Ebersberger scored nine points to help get the Lady Panthers within nine.

Despite the run, Cody still led 36-24 with just over six minutes left to play in the fourth quarter.

Four points from Hildebrand, a basket from Megan Wagner, two free throws from Shawnae Harrington, a free throw from Kadi Cooley and a jumper from Ebersberger brought Powell within one, 36-35 at the 2:15 mark.

Cody, however, answered with a quick basket and Powell missed three of four free throws over the next minute. With just 27.7 seconds remaining, the Fillies converted one of two free throws to go up 39-36.

Powell had one final chance to tie things up and delivered.

Hildebrand — who’d missed her first nine attempts from beyond the arc — drained a 3-pointer from the corner with a few seconds remaining to send the crowd and her teammates into a celebration and the game into overtime.

“That’s the confidence we have in her,” McKenzie said of the play to get Hildebrand the ball. “She has a shooter’s mentality: the next one she’s going to make.”

Powell briefly grabbed a 43-41 advantage in overtime, but as the clock wound down, the team again found themselves in a 3-point hole.

Hildebrand delivered again, hitting another game-tying 3-pointer to make it 48 all.

This time, however, the Fillies had enough time remaining for some heroics of their own. An open Kiara Skinner swished a three with just seconds remaining to deliver the Fillies a win.

“We learned that ... with that amount of time left, you’ve got to find your girl,” McKenzie said. He added that Skinner was “way out there.”

“Hats off to her. She hit a big three,” McKenzie said, adding, “They hit a big shot, we hit big shots. It was a fun rivalry game.”

Ebersberger led Powell in scoring 19 points off the bench.

Hildebrand added 10 points, followed by seven from Harrington, five from Wagner, two points each from Mitchell, Alex Good and Tori Sleep and one from Cooley. Wagner had eight rebounds.

Against Riverton (3-11 overall), PHS grabbed the lead early and never gave it back. The Lady Wolverines did make it interesting late, however.

Powell built up a 20-11 advantage by half-time, and a Mitchell 3-pointer in the opening seconds of the quarter made it a 12-point, 23-11, lead.

Unfortunately, the Lady Panthers would manage no more points in the third quarter and only three over the next 15 minutes.

Riverton didn’t have much better luck against the Lady Panther defense. At one point, the Lady Wolverines burned three minutes off the clock looking for an open shot. They came up empty.

Riverton later, however, sunk a pair of 3-pointers to help them pull within three, 26-23, with 2:43 remaining.

The score stayed that way until the 17 second mark, when Hildebrand nailed the front end of a one-and-one and the bonus to give Powell a 28-23 advantage. That effectively sealed the deal.

McKenzie was pleased to see the team’s improvement from the free throw line, a solid 10 for 13 showing. With Riverton making just three shots from the line, “the free throws won it for us,” McKenzie said.

Ebersberger again led the Lady Panthers in scoring with 11 points.

“That’s the vision that we had for her this year, is to come off the bench and provide that spark,” McKenzie said of the sophomore.

Hildebrand and Mitchell had nine points a piece with Wagner adding one. Hildebrand and Wagner each had six rebounds.

PHS continued to struggle to find consistency from the 3-point line in this weekend’s contests. The team went five of 35.

“We’re still trying to explode from the 3-point line,” McKenzie said. In the meantime, he noted the team is relying on its tough defense.

The team also had a much-improved weekend protecting the ball: the PHS girls had 12 turnovers against Cody and only eight against Riverton.

Powell travels to Worland (0-11 overall) tonight (Tuesday) for a 5:30 p.m. contest before having the weekend off.

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