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Fourth-ranked Panther girls roll

Powell rises to third in 3A West standings

The fourth-ranked Powell Panthers girls’ basketball team defeated Pinedale 50-27 and Lander 47-38 in weekend road basketball action. The victories improved the Panthers’ record to 14-5 overall this season and 8-5 in the league standings.

The Panthers have now won nine of their last 10 contests.

Powell jumped to a 15-2 lead on Lander in Saturday’s game. Alyssa Hildebrand connected for three 3-point buckets in the first quarter to help bury the host Tigers in a significant hole on the scoreboard. The early accuracy also convinced the Tigers to quickly drop their zone defense in favor of a man-to-man look that almost allowed the team to claw back into the contest in the second quarter.

Powell spent much of the second period stymied offensively. Brooke Lensegrav’s pair of buckets from behind the arc were Powell’s only points of the second period as Lander changed the 13-point early game deficit to just a 21-14 shortfall at intermission.

“Both of the baskets she hit in that second quarter were big for us,” said Powell head coach Scott McKenzie.

The Panthers left their offensive struggles in the halftime locker room, coming out to hit for 15 points again in the third quarter, pushing the lead back into double figures where it remained for much of the rest of the contest.

Hildebrand had a team-high 17 points for the Panthers in the contest. Lensegrav added a career-best 11 points for the Panthers. Kadi Cooley finished with six assists. Tess Mitchell added a game-high six rebounds for Powell.

“Having a 5-6 girl leading us in rebounding was pretty cool,” McKenzie said after the contest. “Rebounding is just a matter of determination and she sure had it against Lander.”

The previous night against Pinedale, the Panthers led wire-to-wire in their 50-27 victory. After allowing the host Wranglers to linger close for the first eight minutes, Powell took charge in the second quarter, outscoring Pinedale by a 15-4 count to open a double-digit margin on the scoreboard that only continued growing throughout the second half.

The 23-point victory was the Panthers’ widest winning margin of the year.

Cooley, Lensegrav and Mitchell each hit 3-point buckets in the second quarter to help the Panthers open daylight on the scoreboard. For Mitchell, it was one of three treys registered in the contest for the senior better known for her prowess at the charity stripe, where she entered the weekend as Class 3A’s most accurate shooter.

Hildebrand finished with the first double-double of her high school career, finishing with 12 points and 10 assists in the contest. The double-digit assist total also places Hildebrand in the top five all-time in Powell High School history for most assists in a single game.

“We really passed the ball well against their zone,” said McKenzie. “We moved the ball as well as we have all season and got some great looks at the basket.”

Megan Wagner hauled down seven rebounds for Powell in the victory.

The pair of victories vaulted the Panthers into third place in the 3A West standings. Even more noteworthy may be the fact they were accomplished without the services of the team’s No. 2 scorer this season, Jenni Ebersberger, who missed both contests due to a family wedding she attended.

“We challenged Brooke Lensegrav to step up over the weekend with Jenni gone, and she did more than that,” said McKenzie. “If there was an MVP award, she’d get it. Not only did she score for us, but she helped hold Lander’s top player to just 10 points on Saturday. I’m very proud of her and hope she continues from this Lander game through the rest of this year and into next season since she’s only a junior.”

McKenzie also praised Cooley for her role, noting the she was forced into more minutes than usual in Ebersberger’s absence.

“Kadi had to take the brunt of the point guard role with Jenni gone,” said McKenzie. “She had to play longer in the rotation that she normally would have and did a great job of covering some of those minutes where Jenni usually would have been on the floor.”

The Panthers return to action this Thursday against Lander in a 5:45 p.m. contest that will be the team’s final home game of the regular season. The contest will also serve as senior night as five players and one manager are honored.

The following night, the Panthers will travel to Cody for the final game before the start of the 3A West regional tournament. A lot will be riding on that contest’s outcome.

“The winner of that game will end up as the No. 3 team on the bracket,” said McKenzie. “We lost to them at home the first time in a game where we fell behind by 20, then fought back to force overtime. Hopefully we can go up there and get off to a better start.”

Powell 47, Lander 38

Lensegrav 11, Cooley 2, Hildebrand 17, Mitchell 5, Harrington 3, Wagner 8.

Powell 50, Pinedale 27

Lensegrav 3, Cooley 3, Hildebrand 12, Mitchell 9, Harrington 9, Wagner 8, Sleep 6.

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