“We didn’t play well enough, and the teams we faced played fairly well,” said Panther head coach Luke Danforth, who noted his team had trouble fnding its shooters throughout its stay in Casper. “Both Buffalo and Torrington shot the ball well from the perimeter and when we went out to cover them, they did a good job of coming inside against us.”
The Panthers were also hampered by slow starts in each of their two contests. In Thursday’s tournament opener, Powell failed to score in the first quarter against Buffalo. The team trailed by more than 20 when it finally broke through the lid atop its basket, nearly a minute into the second quarter of an eventual 52-26 loss.
“We just had a hard time finding our range,” said Danforth. “When you can’t go into the paint and score and you’re not hitting from the outside, there’s not a lot you can do.”
Powell struggled to just seven first-half points as the team hit just 3 of 19 shot attempts from the floor. After breaking into double figures early in the second half with a 3-point bucket, Panther fans again watched as the team went cold, failing to score again until the final stanza.
In the meantime, Buffalo pushed its lead as high as 32 points, shooting nearly 49 percent for the game. Dallas Shaw led the Bison into the semifinals with 31 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
Powell countered with eight points from Kendra Ostrom. Leslie Thronburg added seven points and team highs of six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Thronburg’s three assists were the only ones recorded by the Panthers in the contest.
Powell dug itself into a similar hole against Torrington in Friday morning’s elimination contest. After scoring early, the Panthers watched as Torrington scored 19 of the game’s next 21 points to put Powell down 19-6 after one quarter.
“When you’re at the state tournament, you’re playing quality teams and those are the types of teams that don’t give up big leads,” Danforth said. “We didn’t get discouraged, but at the same time, you can’t keep digging a hole and expect to come back.”
After playing the second quarter on nearly level terms, the Panthers watched as Torrington pulled away in the third period. Powell was out-scored 16-7 coming out from intermission and trailed 52-26 in the fourth quarter before the Panthers scored 12 of the game’s final 14 points to bring the final gap back to 54-38.
Olivia Rogers knocked down 11 points for the Panthers, who again struggled to hit just 27 percent of their shots from the floor. Thronburg added 10 points and seven rebounds. Becky Dent tallied a trio of blocked shots in the contest.
Torrington’s Mikayla Brower had 17 points to lead all scorers in the game.
“I was pleased with our attitude as we approached the game (Friday),” Danforth said. “We watched some game film on Thursday night and came together to play. Both teams were obviously disappointed to be playing on Friday morning.”
Friday’s game against Torrington marked the last in the Panther hoop careers of Thronburg, Rogers and Randi Asay.
“It was a tough way to send the seniors out,” Danforth said. “They’ve been a good crew and they leave a great legacy behind. This was their fourth state tournament. It’s hard to see them go out this way. All three of them are good kids.”
For the younger players, Danforth noted the experience was a powerful lesson in what it takes to be successful at the state tournament.
“For them, that process begins today as they start their spring sports,” he said. “We’ve got some work to do.”
Overall, Danforth said he was proud of the team’s efforts this season.
“We battled through some injuries and illnesses this season,” said Danforth. “The girls stuck together and played well.
We had a good regional tournament and the girls should be proud of their efforts and accomplishments. Everyone wants to play on Saturday night at the state tournament. This just wasn’t our year to do that.”
Buffalo 52, Powell 26
Hildebrand 2, Ostrom 8, Mitchell 3, Thronburg 7, Danforth 3, Rogers 2, Lynn 1.
Torrington 54, Powell 38
Hildebrand 7, Ostrom 2, Mitchell 2, Thronburg 10, Danforth 2, Rogers 11, Dent 4.