For three quarters Monday night, the Evanston High School girls’ basketball team played Kelly Walsh straight up on the Lady Trojans’ home floor, with each team scoring 25 points.
But a disastrous second quarter that saw the home team go on an 18-0 run destroyed any shot the Lady Devils had of pulling an upset on the road. The 44-28 loss dropped Evanston to 5-11 on the season, and was the fifth loss in a row for head coach Jeremy Fessler’s squad.
“We kept it close, but that second quarter got away from us,” Fessler said. “It always seems like we have one bad quarter, so we’re constantly preaching to the girls they have to play a full four quarters. Most of the time, it’s the first quarter — we always seem like we’re digging out of a hole. We started OK on Monday, but that second quarter was too much.”
Both teams struggled to get things going offensively, with the Lady Trojans holding a slim 8-6 lead at the end at the end of the first quarter.
But the aforementioned second quarter was all Kelly Walsh, as the Lady Trojans out-scored Evanston 19-3 to take a 27-9 lead at the half.
“The first half we went with a 2-3 zone because of Kelly Walsh’s size,” Fessler said. “We tried a little zone press, and the zone press did not work. The second quarter, they [Kelly Walsh] went on an 18-0 run — it was just offensive rebound after offensive rebound.”
“We played pretty even in the first, and the second quarter they had that big run,” Fessler added. “We decided to go man defense in the second half, and I thought we played much better.”
The Lady Devils outscored Kelly Walsh 8-6 in the third quarter, and both teams put 11 points on the board in the fourth. The damage done in the second quarter proved to be insurmountable, however, and the Lady Trojans sent Evanston packing with a 44-28 loss.
“We’re trying to find an identity, because we struggled with our man defense against Rock Springs,” he explained. “So we tried a little zone to see if that is the kind of team we are, but we’ve come to the conclusion as a program that we’re a man defense. We need to get up and play and fly around.”
Amber Lowe paced the Lady Devils with 13 points, including a 2-for-3 performance from behind the arc. The senior also led the team in assists with three.
“Amber Lowe played well for us again,” Fessler said. “She’s on fire from the 3-point line the last three games, which is good to see.”
Taryn Wagstaff and Stacia Barker netted five points apiece, while Zocia Nowakowski and Kambree Brown finished with two points each.
Maggie Moore led the team in rebounds with three; Kelly Walsh out-rebounded the Lady Devils 32-10, with 16 of those coming on the offensive end.
“Taryn Wagstaff did some good things for us — we’re trying to spread them out offensively, get their bigs away from the basket so we can drive in there a little bit,” Fessler said. “Our posts were pretty much bottled up the whole game with Kelly Walsh’s size.”
Reflecting on his squad’s five-game losing skid, Fessler said that with just three weeks left before the postseason, the Lady Devils need to figure out an identity before it’s too late.
“Typically my Lady Devils teams are flying around, trapping, causing turnovers and getting easy baskets,” Fessler said.
“Right now, we’re struggling to score in the half-court set. We have to get some easy baskets, and we’re just not getting that this year.”
With games scheduled at home this weekend — Cody on Friday and Riverton Saturday afternoon — Fessler said the team has been concentrating on being more aggressive.
“This week we didn’t have a lot of practice time because of the Monday game and wrestling Thursday,” he explained. “But we’re focusing on flying around — working on traps and rotating out of traps, that hurt us in earlier games. We’re focusing on getting up and playing and trying to read the ball. And anticipation — guess where the other team is going to pass it, and get there.”
“We’re gonna get up and play, but we have to be smarter about it,” he added. “Against Rock Springs, we gave up way too many easy transition baskets because we were up and they were throwing it over the top of us and getting easy layups. We’ll put in a few different half-court traps and see if we can get some success with that. But we have to be able to trap and get some turnovers.”