“The whole weekend was big for us,” said PHS head coach Scott McKenzie. The victories vaulted the Lady Panthers (9-4 overall, 3-4 in Class 3A West) from a tie for last in the conference into a tie for fourth.
“We’re very pleased with our progress and we’re pleased with the team chemistry,” McKenzie said.
The visiting Lander Lady Tigers (6-9 overall, 2-5 in Class 3A West) got out to an early 11-7 lead, but a 7-0 run by the Lady Panthers ended up giving Powell the lead for good.
The Lady Panthers built up a 31-23 advantage by half-time and used a couple baskets from Shawnea Harrington to go up by 12 early in the third quarter. With the game about to get out of hand, Lander fought back.
In just over a minute, the Lady Tigers scored 10 unanswered points — seven of them from red-hot Shanda Post — to pull within two at 35-33.
Megan Wagner stopped the bleeding with an offensive put-back.
Jenni Ebersberger then made two free throws and Alyssa Hildebrand added two more and a basket to give PHS some breathing room, 42-35, at the end of the third quarter.
Tess Mitchell (two baskets) and Kadi Cooley (two free throws) kept the Lady Panthers’ momentum going in the fourth quarter to build a 48-35 lead with just over six minutes remaining. Lander got no closer than eight points the rest of the way.
McKenzie praised his team’s patience, citing a number of possessions that ate up more than a minute and slowed down Lander.
Post scored more than half of Lander’s points by contributing 22. McKenzie praised Hildebrand and Brooke Lensegrav’s efforts in limiting Post, who’s one of the state’s leading scorers.
“If we don’t play her that tough, she probably actually gets 42 (points),” McKenzie said
On the Powell side of the ball, McKenzie praised the play of all of his post players: Harrington, Megan Wagner, Tori Sleep, Alex Good and BreaAnn Hollenbeck.
“We scored 24 points between those girls and if we can get that offensive production from our posts, we’re in contention,” McKenzie said. They were a big reason the team went 17 of 24 from two-point range.
Ebersberger led the team with 12 points, followed by 11 from Harrington. Wagner added nine, Hildebrand six, Mitchell and Sleep four each, Lensegrav three and Cooley two.
Wagner led the team with six rebounds while Hildebrand had a team-best five assists.
Powell and Pinedale (1-14 overall, 1-7 in Class 3A West) each started slow on Saturday.
Powell managed just four field goals (Pinedale only three) in the first half, which ended with Powell up 16-8.
Any hopes of a Pinedale comeback were crushed early in the third quarter.
Between the 5:30 and 4:30 marks, Mitchell erupted for eight points on a pair of 3-pointers and a basket. The spurt would prove one point more than the Lady Wranglers team would muster in the entire second half.
“Tess (Mitchell) has that capability, and the last two weeks, she has really become more offensive-minded for us and that definitely helps us,” McKenzie said.
Up 24-8, the Powell girls never gave Pinedale a chance to get back into the game.
The Lady Panthers went a weak 3-for-25 from two-point range, but balanced it out by going 6-for-20 from the 3-point line.
“We didn’t shoot that well, but how about that defense?” said McKenzie, noting Pinedale’s highest-scoring quarter was five points.
Mitchell led PHS with 10 points. Hildebrand had nine, while Cooley, Harrington and Ebersberger each added three, Good and Sleep added two points a piece and Hollenbeck contributed one.
Cooley, Hildebrand and Harrington each had five rebounds, while Wagner had four steals.
The Lady Panthers began using its entire bench with more than five minutes remaining in the contest.
“To play 12 girls is hard to do and it was nice to reward their hard work and efforts for all they do for our team,” said McKenzie.
Hollenbeck, a senior, played in both weekend games and contributed three assists, a point and a rebound.
“She makes the most of her opportunities and we hope the young girls learn from her example,” McKenzie said.
After last weekend’s home games, Powell hits the road this week to face Star Valley and Jackson. They’ll face Star Valley — Class 3A West’s second-place team with a 10-4 overall, 6-1 conference record — at 5:45 p.m. Friday. PHS plays Jackson — tied with Powell with a 3-4 conference record (3-12 overall) — at 12:45 p.m. Saturday.
“We need to go on the road and steal one or two this weekend to make up for those (losses) at home,” McKenzie said. “And so that’s what we’re going to do.”