After closing out 2019 with a 3-0 record at the Flaming Gorge Classic last month, the Evanston High School girls’ basketball team came back to earth a bit to start 2020.
The Lady Devils (3-6) faced some of the toughest teams in the state at last week’s Taco John’s Invitational in Cheyenne, returning home with an 0-3 record. Evanston opened the tournament Thursday with a hard-fought 55-43 loss against No. 1 Cheyenne East (11-1), and followed that Friday with a 43-41 heartbreaker in overtime to Cheyenne South (3-7). The Lady Devils closed out the tournament Saturday with a 52-22 loss to No. 2 Cheyenne Central (9-1).
“It was a mixed weekend — there was the good, the OK and the ugly,” said EHS head coach Jeremy Fessler. “Against East we played pretty good basketball for three quarters — I don’t know if it’s a mental block we have when we play those bigger schools, but we always seem to come out very slow.”
Cheyenne East 55, Lady Devils 43
The Lady T-Birds are the top-ranked team in 4A, and they showed why in the opening contest for both teams, jumping out to a 17-5 lead to start the game, and leading 36-21 at the break.
The Lady Devils battled back in the second half, outscoring East 22-19, though the first half deficit proved to be too much to overcome in the 55-43 loss.
“We got down 13 points in the first, but after that, it was a battle back-and-forth,” Fessler said. “I was discouraged by the start, but encouraged by how we finished.”
Zocia Nowakowski was a rebound away from a double-double, netting 17 points and grabbing nine boards. Maggie Moore and Amber Lowe finished with nine points apiece, with Moore hitting two shots from behind the arc and Lowe leading the team in steals with two.
Evanston couldn’t find an answer for Lady T-Bird Ky Buell, who torched the Lady Devils to the tune of 29 points.
“We were doing good things offensively, but we just could not stop Buell,” Fessler said. “I tried different girls on her, but she’s a smart player — I think if we had handled her a little bit better, we would have had a chance to win that game. It was disappointing that we couldn’t stop one player, basically, who carried them the whole game.”
Cheyenne South 43, Lady Devils 41 OT
The first time these two teams met, the Lady Devils won in impressive fashion, beating the South 44-28 at last month’s Flaming Gorge Classic in Green River.
The Lady Bison earned a measure of revenge in the rematch, utilizing a zone defense battle to a 43-41 win in overtime.
“Against South, we scored six quick points against their man defense, and he [South head coach Chad DeBruyn] went to zone and we struggled from there on out in the first half,” Fessler said. “It was really the first zone defense we’ve seen all season. We battled and battled in the second half, it just didn’t work out in our favor.”
Sophomore post Stacia Barker had a double-double for the Lady Devils, netting 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Zocia Nowakowski led the team in scoring with 13 points, to go along with eight rebounds; Kambree Brown finished with five points, while Maggie Moore and Amber Lowe chipped in four points apiece.
Cheyenne Central 52, Lady Devils 22
“Against Central, we just didn’t have any energy — we couldn’t make a shot,” Fessler said of his team’s final contest of the tournament. “We didn’t even show up.”
The Lady Indians opened Saturday’s game with a 15-4 run and didn’t take their foot off the gas, taking a 30-6 lead into the break. After getting blanked 10-0 in the third quarter, Evanston finally came alive in the fourth, outscoring Central 16-12.
But by then, the damage was done.
“In both previous games [against East and South], we were digging out of a hole — that takes a lot of energy,” Fessler said. “We’re not very deep, so we don’t play a lot of girls right now. That contributed to the effort we saw on Saturday.”
Amber Lowe led the team in scoring with nine points, followed by eight from Zocia Nowakowski. Taryn Wagstaff hit Evanston’s lone 3-pointer for the game.
The Lady Devils will finally have a game at home this week, as they host 3A Mountain View (7-3) on Friday at the EHS gym. Evanston is back on the road Saturday to take on 3A Lyman (5-7).
“We know both of them [Mountain View and Lyman] are very good — Mountain View beat us three times this summer, and Lyman is always scrappy,” Fessler said. “They’re both well-coached teams, I love both those coaches and what they do. It’s exciting for our girls to be home. I don’t know if we’ve played the toughest schedule in the state so far, but it’s definitely one of the toughest. Five of our six losses are to five of the top teams in the state. The schedule’s gonna lighten up a bit, so hopefully we can get some things going offensively.”