The Powell High School girls basketball team begins the 2019-20 season in an unusual position. A healthy number of upperclassmen — five seniors and five juniors — have suited up for the …
The Powell High School girls basketball team begins the 2019-20 season in an unusual position. A healthy number of upperclassmen — five seniors and five juniors — have suited up for the Panthers. However, because last year’s team featured a lineup chock-full of seniors, they enter this weekend’s opening tournament in Buffalo with very little varsity experience.
“Whenever you have eight seniors graduate and you have kids that didn’t have that opportunity to be on the floor as juniors, it’s definitely a rebuilding year,” said PHS head coach Chelsea Buher, but she’s excited about the players who went out for the team this year.
“It’s a unique situation, and we’re going to have our ups and downs,” Buher said, “but I think we’re going to surprise some people. That’s definitely our goal.”
The team’s slogan for this year is “Earn the right to win,” and Buher said that means coming into practice every day and working as hard as they can.
“Nobody’s going to hand it to them and we don’t want anybody to feel sorry for us for having to rebuild — and I think we’re up to the challenge,” the coach said.
This will be Buher’s first season leading the Panther girls, but she brings years of coaching experience to the position.
Buher spent several years leading her hometown Indians in Lawrenceville, Illinois, before joining Park County School District No. 1 in 2016. She spent the last two years leading the PHS freshman girls team under now-PHS activities director Scott McKenzie.
“Of course I’ve got big shoes to fill there,” Buher said of replacing the 30-year coaching veteran, but she said McKenzie helped prepare her for her new role by giving her a lot of control over the freshman squads.
Panther fans can expect to see a new style of play under the new coach — though Buher is tight-lipped about the details before the season kicks off.
“It’s going to be a different system than in the past and it’s going to fit our personnel,” she said, “and it’ll just continue to be better as the year goes on.”
With the PHS squad having little varsity experience, “we’re kind of giving a look at different match-ups and who’s going to work well with who and kind of go from there,” Buher said as the team prepared to enter its third week of practices.
The Powell girls aren’t a tall squad, but the coach says there are some hard workers willing to do whatever it takes to succeed; she also praised them as just being a good group of kids.
“I think we go into it with the mindset of, we have nothing to lose and we can only get better and we can only grow,” Buher said. “We’re going to learn so much after every game and each and every practice.”
This year’s sophomores and juniors played under Buher as freshmen and came into the season knowing a bit about her expectations.
As for seniors Karina Boreen, Tenna DesJarlais, Kortny Feller, Sidney O’Brien and Sabrina Shoopman, they’ve “come in with such an open mind” and have “kept a really good attitude” about all the changes, the coach said. “So this is a great time for them to come together as a team and help each other, because they all bring something different.”
DesJarlais and Shoopman played limited minutes at last year’s Class 3A state tournament, where the Panthers (17-10 overall) advanced to the semifinals and finished fourth.
Buher said she and her assistant coaches have been trying to keep the seniors from putting too much pressure on themselves as “we’re all in this together.”
PHS juniors Madison Fields, Rose Graft, Hailee Hyde, Paije Johnson and Rylynn Valdez will round out the varsity roster on opening day.
The Powell girls open the 2019-20 season on the road in Buffalo. They’ll face Rawlins at 1:30 p.m. Friday, followed by a 7:30 p.m. matchup with the hosting Bison. PHS’s first weekend will wrap up with a 2 p.m. Saturday game against Douglas.
Buher said the three games will be a good first test for her squad, which has been learning new things “left and right.”
“They’ll be hearing me tell them, ‘Just go out and play hard; whatever happens, happens,’” the coach said.
To date, Buher said all her players have come into practice willing to learn and work hard, “and there’s not much more a coach can ask for.”
Buher is assisted by Troy Hildebrand, who will again lead the junior varsity squad, and Andrew Borcher, who is the new freshman coach.
The junior varsity plays Buffalo at 4:30 p.m. Friday and Douglas at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.