The PHS girls’ journey ended at the Class 3A state tournament in Casper with a 55-45 loss to Rawlins on Thursday and a 38-26 loss to Buffalo on Friday.
Things began well.
About halfway through the first quarter, the Lady Panthers went up 10-4 on Rawlins with a 3-pointer from sophomore Jenni Ebersberger.
Rawlins’ Kalli Feddersen, however, responded over the next minute with two treys of her own and a free throw to make it 11-10, Lady Outlaws.
The period ended with Rawlins up 13-11.
A basket from sophomore Megan Wagner with 5:31 remaining in the second quarter put Powell back on top, 15-14. But Feddersen replied with five straight points to put Rawlins up 19-15.
Feddersen ran into foul trouble soon after that and checked out, but by half-time, her Rawlins teammates had built up a 29-21 lead.
“Probably the total difference of that Rawlins game was Rawlins had some players off their bench step up and make some big shots,” said McKenzie.
Rawlins appeared to be running away with things in the opening minutes of the third quarter, scoring a 3-pointer and a basket to go up 34-21. The Lady Panthers, however, methodically chipped away.
Baskets from junior Shawnea Harrington, Wagner, junior Brooke Lensegrav and, lastly, a 3-pointer from senior Alyssa Hildebrand pulled Powell within four points by the end of the quarter.
In the opening minute of the fourth quarter, Ebersberger made one of two to draw Powell to within 36-33. But Rawlins’ Quiriss Romero immediately responded with a basket to make things more comfortable for the Lady Outlaws. Around that time, senior point guard Kadi Cooley suffered a season-ending knee injury on a jump stop. McKenzie said the injury took the wind out of the girls’ sails.
At the two-minute mark, Rawlins got their lead up to nine, at 46-37. But senior Tess Mitchell answered with a basket, then, after Feddersen (22 points) missed the front end of a one-and-one, canned a 3-pointer. That put Powell down by just four points with 1:13 remaining.
Put at the line again with 1:07 left, Feddersen again came up empty on her first free throw, but this time, Catie McFarland nabbed the offensive rebound for Rawlins.
McFarland drew a foul and sunk those two free throws — and with them, the hopes of a Lady Panther comeback.
Rawlins made five of their six free throws in the final minute to seal the deal.
“I thought that we played hard, and I thought we were focused and it just didn’t go our way,” said McKenzie.
Powell turned the ball over 27 times in the game, leading to 21 of Rawlins’ points. Rawlins had 20 turnovers that Powell turned into 16 points.
The Powell girls out-rebounded the Lady Outlaws 40-35.
Wagner led the way with 10 points (including going 4-for-7 from the floor) and 10 rebounds. It was her first time leading PHS in scoring and her first double-double.
“That was way cool,” said McKenzie.
Mitchell scored nine points, Ebersberger eight, Harrington seven (plus eight rebounds), Hildebrand five, Lensegrav four and Tori Sleep two.
Like they did against Rawlins, Powell got out to an early lead against Buffalo on Saturday.
Harrington sank a 3-pointer with 1:46 remaining in the first quarter to put PHS up 8-3. Buffalo responded with an 8-0 run into the second quarter, however, to take a 10-8 lead.
Hildebrand briefly put PHS back on top with another 3-pointer, but Buffalo tied it up at 11 less than a half-minute later and took the lead for good on a basket with 4:30 remaining in the half.
At the end of the second quarter, Buffalo was up 16-11.
Harrington scored early in the third quarter to make 16-13, but that would be as close as the struggling Lady Panther offensive could get.
Buffalo took a 21-15 lead into the fourth quarter and Lady Bison Jenna Anderson opened fourth quarter scoring with a 3-point dagger.
The Powell girls never got closer than seven points down the rest of the way. They shot just 8-for-44 from the floor in the game — including 3-for-23 from 3-point range. They did beat Buffalo on the boards, 38-34, but lost the turnover battle 19-16.
“It was a hard game when you lose your senior quarterback, if you will,” said McKenzie, referring to Cooley. “I felt bad that Kadi couldn’t play in that last game for her senior year, but what a great kid.”
He said Cooley cheered for all she was worth from the bench.
Harrington, who went 4-for-7 from the floor, stood out for PHS with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Hildebrand and Ebersberger each had six points, followed by two from Lensegrav and one each from Wagner and Alex Good.
Former Lady Panther Amy Danforth, who moved to Buffalo last year, started for the Lady Bison and had five points.
Star Valley’s Lady Braves (23-4) were the Class 3A champions, handing Douglas (28-1) its first loss of the season, 56-46, in the championship game.
Rawlins (22-4) finished third with a 62-44 win over Newcastle, while Buffalo beat Lander 69-65 for the consolation championship.
McKenzie thanked his four seniors — Cooley, Hildebrand, BreaAnn Hollenbeck and Mitchell — for the student leadership they provided.
“They will truly be missed,” he said.
McKenzie also said he’s “excited about the future,” with “a great nucleus of juniors and sophomores coming back” and a nice freshman class moving up.
“This team has set high expectations that we hope to continue to achieve, starting next year,” McKenzie said.
He also thanked his “super” assistant coaches, Troy Hildebrand and Gary Phister, the players’ parents, the community and the PHS administration for all their support during the Lady Panthers’ 2012-2013 campaign.