Despite not having an official answer to the question of who Evanston was taking on in today’s 4A West regional semifinal, the Red Devils spent the week focusing on how not to have a repeat of the Feb. 17 loss to Natrona.
Natrona County took on Green River yesterday in a game that had not yet gone final as of press time. Evanston was 2-0 against injury-plagued Green River but struggled to adapt to Natrona’s new look in the 59-54 loss two week’s ago.
Every day in practice for Evanston was focused on playing against a 2-3 zone or box-and-1, which is what Natrona showed the last time and what Evanston expects to see again.
Evanston shot just 23 percent on Feb. 17, the team’s second worst outing of the season. Head coach Jeremy Fessler has implemented a few new things for his offense this week in preparation for a rematch with Natrona.
“We’re going to have a lot more motion this time, especially with our guards,” coach Fessler said. “We’re having them move around a lot more, so that it’s not so easy for (Natrona) to match up and guard who they want to.”
It was obvious to anyone watching the game on Feb. 17 that Natrona was using its defensive looks in an attempt to play mind games on certain Evanston players. Judging by the final statistical tally, it worked.
Coach Fessler knows this will be Natrona’s plan and has spent as much time over the past two weeks working on building confidence in his players as he has on strategy.
“The big thing for us is confidence,” he said. “... All those guards who they seem to want to leave open, we should take that as an insult.”
The good news for Evanston from that loss was that despite shooting such a paltry average from the field, the game was decided by just five points.
Evanston stifled the Natrona offense throughout, except for a breakout second half by Kristy Dick. Dick was responsible for 11 of her team’s 21 points in the third and fourth quarters and led the charge for Natrona to take the lead and pull away.
Evanston did not pressure as much in the second half. Coach Fessler thinks that allowed Natrona to find too much of a comfort zone in its half-court sets and is something he said will not happen this time around.
Evanston plays in the 4A West regional semifinal in Jackson at 4 p.m. today. Live audio of the game will be online at mylocalradio.com and on the radio at KNYN 99.1 FM.