Panther girls’ basketball ready for 2020-21 season after diligent offseason

Posted 12/3/20

The 2019-20 girls’ basketball season left Hailee Hyde and other members of the Powell High School team wanting more. After failing to reach the Class 3A State Tournament, every player had a …

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Panther girls’ basketball ready for 2020-21 season after diligent offseason

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The 2019-20 girls’ basketball season left Hailee Hyde and other members of the Powell High School team wanting more. After failing to reach the Class 3A State Tournament, every player had a similar goal: get better.

“It definitely made us more hungry; that was one of our goals last year,” Hyde said. “We want to at least put up a fight to make it there, so we’re ready to give an extra fight.”

Over the summer, Hyde (now a senior) and other Panthers constantly spent time on the court. One of their drills involved trying to get 100 shots up in six minutes as a group.

Just a couple days into practice, the girls have seen improvement.

“We definitely have a lot better shooting strength this year because we worked on it so much,” Hyde said.

Five of the nine Panthers on this year’s varsity roster — Hyde, Maddie Campbell, Madi Fields, Rose Graft and Rylynn Valdez — already have varsity experience, so that has made it easier for head coach Chelsea Buher in the first few days of practice.

“Now we’re able to start to capitalize and have a better idea of what we’re doing this year,” Buher said. “We added a couple new girls that we didn’t have last year, and they’ve picked it up really well.”

While basketball is back at Powell High School, it will look much different for Buher’s squad this year. Players are required to wear masks at all times when not on the court, and outside team gatherings are prohibited as a result of the pandemic.

Despite the season’s bizarre nature, Buher wants the girls to focus on a big positive: They’re playing basketball.

“We try to put the focus on the fact that we’re playing,” the coach said. “I’m from southern Illinois, and they’re not playing right now. You’re playing, and no matter what it looks like, you’re in the gym. You better be thankful for that.”

Cases of COVID-19 rose sharply in Wyoming in recent months, and the pandemic has been unpredictable. Because of this, there’s no guarantee that the Panthers will get to finish the season — something that’s out of the team’s hands.

“I tell them to focus on the things that we can control,” Buher said. “All those things we can’t control, so let’s focus on the things we can control. If we can help ourselves at some point, mask up and follow the protocols, then we’re going to give ourselves a good opportunity to continue playing.”

Another unique aspect of this season is lack of attendance at competitions. At least initially, only 100 spectators will be allowed in the gyms, with PHS using a ticket system for its events. Games will be streamed on the NFHS Network, which has been paid for by Park County School District 1.

Though the community’s presence at games will be lower than in past years, Buher said she hopes Panther boosters still take an interest in the program remotely.

“I hope everybody utilizes that,” Buher said. “We hope that they do so because I know our girls could use all the support they can get, especially in crazy times like these.”

Powell finished 3-18 a year ago, but the Panthers are confident they will see the number of wins increase in 2020-21. More than putting a specific number of wins as a goal, Buher wants to see steady growth throughout the season.

“They want to be able to compete this year. We want them to be able to do the small things and do them correctly and to work hard and get better at the things we’ve been working on all summer,” she said. “I think we’re going to surprise some people. We’re going to have some hard times in the beginning, like everyone else, and we’re going to get over them and try to build.”

The Panthers are scheduled to open the regular season on Thursday, Dec. 10, when they play a road contest in Riverton at 6:30 p.m.

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