“As they truly say, the ball didn’t bounce our way,” PHS head coach Scott McKenzie said.
Leading the undefeated Worland Warriors by a point with 3.6 seconds remaining, the Panthers couldn’t quite corral their inbounds pass and the ball found its way to the feet of Worland senior Bryanna Mickelson.
“She was headsy and threw it up there, and just like on TV, it bounces around three times and drops,” McKenzie said of Saturday’s buzzer-beater.
Worland won 44-43 and went on to win the tourney.
“We’re not drawing on the loss. We’re using it as a learning tool,” McKenzie said. “We know we can play with the best this year.”
Powell (4-3) beat Greybull Thursday and Wyoming Indian on Friday before the semi-final defeat at Rocky Mountain High School in Cowley.
McKenzie was encouraged by the improvement and potential his team has showed, including strong rebounding from his post players, solid bench play and better shooting.
“We put all of this recipe together (and) we’re excited about where we can end up here by the time we’re done,” he said.
Worland 44, Powell 43
Midway through the second quarter of Saturday’s semi-final, it looked like Powell might easily dispatch the No. 1 ranked Worland Warriors (7-0).
The Panthers grabbed a 20-10 lead over the game’s first 11 minutes, but the Warriors would halve that advantage by halftime, 23-18.
Worland kept chipping away and a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter finally put them on top, 36-34. A third-chance put-back from senior Breanna Donarski on PHS’ ensuing possession knotted things up with about six minutes remaining.
The Panthers broke the tie a few minutes later, when a Warrior drew a technical foul for complaining that the officials should “call a foul.” PHS senior Richelle Phister hit both technical free throws.
Worland immediately drew even at 38.
Two free throws from junior Dani Asay and two more by senior Danna Hanks put PHS up 42-38 with 40 seconds left. However, Worland made baskets on its next two possessions (sandwiched around a Phister free throw) to make it 43-42 with 3.6 seconds on the game clock.
That’s when the ball and game got away from the Panthers.
“Just an inch sooner or an inch later and the ball bounces different and Richelle (Phister) gets ahold of it,” McKenzie said, adding, “the basketball favored Worland, if you will.”
Donarski led the team with 12 points. Danna Hanks and Phister each scored 11; Hanks, a perfect 6 for 6 from the line, made it a double-double by adding 10 rebounds.
Asay had five points and junior Jennifer Bonander had four.
McKenzie described himself as “pleased with everyone,” including solid defense from the team’s post players and good minutes from the bench.
“We talked about using this game as a measuring stick — ‘let’s just see where we are in mid-January’ — and we’re very pleased with where we’re at,” he said.
PHS shot 4 of 8 (50 percent) from 3-point range, 8 of 26 (31 percent) from two-point range and 15 of 20 (75 percent) from the free throw line.
Powell 59, Greybull 25
Greybull (6-5) trailed only 9-6 with less than a minute to go in the first quarter on Thursday’s game. However, a basket from junior Tayli Stenerson started a game-deciding 12-0 PHS run.
Playing in their own gym, the Panthers led 27-12 at the half and grew their lead from there.
Phister paced PHS with 13 points, adding five assists and five steals.
Stenerson and sophomore Maddy Hanks also cracked double digits with 11 points apiece and four assists; McKenzie said the two were “really playing big for us that game” off the bench.
Donarski scored seven points (plus five assists), while Asay and Jennifer Bonander had six apiece and Danna Hanks added five.
Asay led the team with seven rebounds.
The Panthers shot 22 of 48 from the floor (46 percent) and 13 of 19 (68 percent) from the free throw line.
Powell 50, Wyoming Indian 39
PHS had never before played Wyoming Indian (4-6) and they made the most of it.
The Panthers outpaced the 2A school in each quarter and “locked it on them defensively,” McKenzie said.
“When you play Wyoming Indian, you’d better be able to do that, because they’re explosive,” he said, adding that the “totally different style of basketball ... was fun.”
PHS led 25-21 at the half and took a six-point, 37-31 advantage into the final period in Cowley.
The Powell girls made it stand up with some stellar free throw shooting. After making just 9 of 23 attempts over the first three quarters, PHS sank 7 of 8 of their tries in the fourth quarter.
Danna Hanks and Phister each scored 12 points, with Hanks adding eight rebounds and six assists. Asay had eight points and 12 rebounds, while Donarski had seven points and seven rebounds and Bonander had six points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
Stenerson added three points and Maddy Hanks had two.
McKenzie called the 21 rebounds collected by Asay and Bonander “awesome,” saying the post players were “huge on the boards.”
The Panthers also handed out 21 assists for the second straight game, which McKenzie said reflected being “really unselfish with the ball.”
PHS shot 16 of 42 (38 percent) from the floor.
The Powell girls have an immediate chance for revenge; they head to Worland for a 5:45 p.m. rematch on Friday.
“We’re looking forward to trying them again,” McKenzie said.
PHS will then host Douglas at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in their final tune-up before Class 3A West conference competition.