It was a bittersweet end to a memorable career for eight seniors and their head coach, as the Powell High School girls’ basketball team ended their season Saturday with a 48-30 loss to Buffalo in the 3A State Basketball Tournament to finish fourth.
It was a tough send-off for seniors Karlie and Katie McKenzie, Aubrie Stenerson, Rachel Bonander, Ashtyn Heny, Brea Terry, Jasmyne Lensegrav and Devon Curtis, who played their final game in Panther colors. Karlie McKenzie and Stenerson received All-Conference honors, while Stenerson was named All-State for the second straight season.
And as the Lady Panthers made their way to the locker room after the final buzzer, the significance of the moment began to take hold.
“There were lots of hugs, lots of tears,” said longtime PHS head coach Scott McKenzie, who’s stepping down after a 30-year coaching career. “It was an emotional moment.”
Powell opened the tournament Thursday with a 51-50 thriller over Rawlins, the No. 2 seed out of the east. The win put the Lady Panthers in the semifinals against for a tough rematch with Lyman, with the Lady Eagles advancing to the title game with a 60-30 win.
As the Powell team slowly emerged from the locker room after Saturday’s third-place game, they found a throng of waiting family members and friends; it was a proper send-off for the seniors who have come to define Lady Panthers basketball the last four seasons.
“These seniors have had an incredible run since the seventh grade,” coach McKenzie said. “They were undefeated as a group until they were sophomores. You add it all up, and their record going through the Powell schools has to be one of the best ever. I’m very proud of them, and we’re going to miss these seniors.”
Although he won’t be at the helm next season, coach McKenzie said the future of the team is bright.
“The girls coming up don’t have a lot of playing time at the varsity level, but boy do we have some athletes that are coming up,” he said. “Whoever takes over that program will have some great young ladies to work with.”
As he reflected on the season, coach McKenzie thanked the parents, assistant coaches Troy Hildebrand and Chelsea Buher, the fans and the PHS administration for their support all season. He also thanked the athletes for their hard work and dedication.
“I also wanted to thank all of my friends and family for everything,” he said. “It’s been a great year, and we couldn’t have accomplished what we did this season without everyone.”
Buffalo 48, Lady Panthers 30
The hopes for a third-place finish for the eight seniors on the PHS girls’ basketball team were dashed Saturday morning with a 48-30 loss to Buffalo.
“It wasn’t the way we wanted to finish, but the girls played hard,” said coach McKenzie. “Buffalo’s ball pressure was just excellent, and they took us out of our rhythm. It just kind of caved in from there.”
The Lady Bison doubled up Powell 12-6 in the first quarter, and took a 20-9 lead at halftime. But the Lady Panthers showed life in the third, hitting two quick buckets to pull within seven.
“I thought we had some good looks; we missed some we had been hitting lately,” coach McKenzie said. “Buffalo just had tremendous pressure and we were making too many turnovers. It just threw us out of whack.”
Bonander again led the charge for Powell, finishing her Panther career with a double-double, netting 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
“I thought we got it into Rachel [Bonander] well, we just didn’t hit our mid-rangers,” coach McKenzie said. “I don’t think we made a three, and we had been making those lately.”
Stenerson finished with eight points, while Katie McKenzie chipped in three; Terry rounded out the scoring with two points.
“Credit Buffalo’s tremendous pressure: They’re a good team,” coach McKenzie said. “We told our girls that the game didn’t define them by any means.”
Powell shot 34 percent from the floor and again struggled with turnovers, finishing with 28.
“The whole impact of it being the final game, there was a lot of emotion,” coach McKenzie said. “It just kind of fell apart for us. But I thought the girls represented Powell and the community really well. We had a great year.”
Lyman 60, Lady Panthers 30
The Lady Panthers kept it close in the first quarter, but a 19-2 Lyman run in the second took the wind out of Powell’s sails in the Friday’s semi-final round of the Class 3A State Basketball Tournament. Lyman cruised to a 60-30 win at Casper College.
The Powell girls were initially able to break Lyman’s stifling press, trailing just 14-12 after one quarter, but it wore the team down as the game progressed.
“We handled the press really well; we broke it, got layups and we were right on the verge of them getting out of it,” said coach McKenzie. However, the coach felt things turned when senior Karlie McKenzie had to go to the bench with her third foul, as “she’s such an important part of running us.”
“We got tired and didn’t get back, and it was layup after layup,” coach McKenzie said. “It was a combination of things in that second quarter.”
Bonander paced the Lady Panthers with 15 points, followed by five points from Katie McKenzie.
PHS turned the ball over 27 times in the contest.
“We had to put some girls in different spots, and they played hard,” the coach said. “Just too many turnovers.”
Lady Panthers 51, Rawlins 50
Led by a double-double from Bonander (19 points, 15 rebounds) and 17 points from Stenerson, the Lady Panthers outlasted the Rawlins Lady Outlaws 51-50 in the opening round. PHS built up a 10-point, 47-37 lead, then held on for the win.
“What a great game; the girls followed the game plan really well. They executed,” coach McKenzie said. “We had so much time to prepare, and we’ve had so much success in opening games at this tournament.”
It was a wild finish, as Powell led 36-35 going into the fourth quarter. Bonander scored seven points in the third frame. Powell struggled at the charity stripe in the final frame, going 6-of-13, but Bonander and Stenerson each hit a foul shot when it counted to give the Lady Panthers the one-point win.
“We definitely made it exciting,” coach McKenzie said. “We got Rawlins to play our tempo, and we did a great job of getting the ball to Rachel [Bonander]. They just didn’t have an answer for her, and when she was doubled, the other girls got some good shots. We made just enough free throws to get the job done.”
Powell stayed below their season average in turnovers for the game, finishing with 14. They also out-rebounded Rawlins 35-28, while hitting five 3-pointers.
“We just hung in there, everyone chipped in,” coach McKenzie said. “We’re very proud of the girls.”