PHS girls head basketball coach Scott McKenzie estimated there were around 50 Powell fans at Saturday night’s game against what seemed to be 500 Mountain View supporters.
“The place was rocking. They definitely had the sixth man, if you will, but you know, shoot, we’re very proud of these girls,” McKenzie said. “They didn’t have to go through the bottom side to qualify (for state) — they played for the regional championship.”
Mountain View (17-8) initially grabbed a 6-0 lead, but the Lady Panthers battled back and kept up their defensive pressure to trail just 9-8 at the half.
However, in the opening minutes of third quarter, the Lady Buffaloes put together an 11-0 run and went up 20-8.
“We couldn’t shut down their posts in the third. They really hurt us,” McKenzie said. Mountain View’s inside players scored seven points in the period, while their guards had six points on put-backs, he said.
PHS senior Shawnea Harrington hit a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to bring Powell within 22-14, but the girls could get no closer.
“We just struggle to score against them,” said McKenzie. Mountain View beat Powell 22-21 and 24-21 in the regular season. The coach said Mountain View’s taller players create match-up problems for the Lady Panthers.
Sophomore Breanna Donarski had six points and five rebounds to lead PHS, followed by four points and five rebounds from junior Jenni Ebersberger, three points apiece from seniors Harrington and KaDee Harrison, two from senior Brooke Lensegrav and one from senior Tori Sleep.
The team shot 6-of-32 from the floor and 4-of-9 from the free throw line.
It didn’t begin particularly well, with No. 8-seeded Jackson (2-22) jumping out to a 8-0 lead over the No. 1-seeded Lady Panthers during their first-round game Thursday morning. It prompted McKenzie to call a timeout.
“We just needed to settle in, refocus, remember the game plan,” the coach said of his message.
Harrington soon hit a couple free throws to break the shutout and started a 17-0 run by the Lady Panthers.
“The girls responded well and we got our press group in the game, and they really went to town on that press,” McKenzie said, recounting the steals and PHS baskets that followed.
Sleep, freshman Kalina Smith, Donarski, junior Megan Wagner, senior Jada Swires, Ebersberger and Harrison all contributed points as PHS built a 28-12 halftime lead.
Powell took a 22-point lead in the third quarter, leading 43-21 at the end of the period. They coasted from there.
In a first round where no other team won by more than eight points, “it was nice that we could come back from the 8-0 deficit and ... just have a nice first game,” McKenzie said.
Donarski led PHS with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor. Ebersberger added eights points, Sleep seven, Harrington and Wagner had five apiece, Harrington contributed four, Swires three and Lensegrav two.
The Lady Panthers also wracked up a season-best 27 steals. Ebersberger and Smith were the top thieves, registering seven takeaways apiece.
The team shot 18-of-49 from the floor and 12-of-20 from the line.
Powell “just played a nice steady game” against Star Valley on Friday, McKenzie said. The girls led 8-2 after one quarter and 13-6 after two.
The Lady Braves (12-13) scored a quick five points to open the second half and pulled within 13-11, but Powell’s girls came right back with a 12-0 run. Smith scored 10 of those points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
“Kalina (Smith) was gigantic in the third quarter,” McKenzie said. “She really helped us with that spurt that we wanted. She had a good game for us all around.”
When Smith scored her last basket, PHS was up 25-11. Star Valley never got closer than nine points the rest of the way. PHS went 10-of-16 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter (16-of-27 for the game) to hold off the Lady Braves.
“A nice comfortable win, if you will, for a semifinal game,” said McKenzie.
The coach said his squad did a good job shutting down Star Valley’s offense, holding the Lady Braves’ two best players to just 10 total points.
Smith led with 15 points — sinking all three of her 3-point attempts — while Lensegrav scored six points from the free throw line. Wagner had four points, as did Ebersberger, who added five assists, too. Swires chipped in three points, Donarski two and Harrison one.
Leading the way in a 34-rebound performance were Donarski (eight) and Sleep (six).
“We really controlled the boards,” McKenzie said.
The team shot 8-of-27 (29.6 percent) from the floor.
The runner-up performance at regionals sends the Lady Panthers to this week’s Class 3A State Tournament as the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed.
The Powell girls will open play Thursday with a 9 a.m. matchup in the Casper Events Center against Torrington (21-5), Class 3A East’s No. 3 seed.