CASPER – After winning just the second regional championship in the program’s history, Evanston was not able to string together a win at the state tournament and was eliminated on Friday by Rock Springs.
The Lady Red Devils matched up with Cheyenne East in the opening round on Thursday — a T-Birds team that had beaten Evanston 58-56 earlier in the season.
Throughout the week leading up to the game, Evanston’s head coach Jeremy Fessler preached the importance of rebounding in the quarterfinal matchup. In the loss to East in the preseason, Evanston had been out-rebounded 40-to-17.
Evanston’s players stepped up to their coach’s challenge — winning the rebounding battle 35-to-34 — but it still wasn’t enough, as East prevailed in overtime 53-50.
East wing Makenzee Fagenbush finished with a team-high 16 points, 11 of which came in the first half to help the T-Birds to a 29-17 lead through the first two quarters.
Evanston was able to halve the deficit in the third quarter. Hailey Barker hit two 3s, and Emmery Wagstaff had five points in the third to lead the Devils’ offense.
Late in the fourth quarter, Evanston trailed 47-45 and needed a bucket to stay alive.
Evanston had an inbound with 27.4 seconds left. Sydney Miller stole the inbound but couldn’t hang onto it. Evanston’s Tayler Groll and East’s Jazzy Espinoza both fought for control. Wagstaff eventually joined in on the fight for the ball and was fouled by Madison Blaney.
Wagstaff hit both free throws to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Evanston struggled throughout the contest to deal with East’s full court press, and the problems continued in overtime. The Devils finished with 24 turnovers in the game and were able to manage just three points in overtime. Wagstaff had a final-desperation shot at the end of overtime to force a second extra period, but it fell off the mark and Evanston was sent into consolation.
All four teams from the 4A West lost on day one, and so Evanston took on Rock Springs for a third time this season on Friday.
Evanston had beaten the Tigers in both of their previous meetings, but an unlikely hero stepped up to change the outcome of this game.
Tigers senior wing Taylor Jenkins tore her ACL coming into the season and did not play the first time the teams met. She opted to hold off surgery until the offseason and played sparingly in the second game. As the consolation semifinals on Friday, Jenkins put up 16 points in 32 minutes and helped Rock Springs pull away in the third quarter with eight points.
Evanston put up 17 points in the fourth quarter, but was matched by Rock Springs and was eliminated by the Tigers by a final score of 59-51.