Despite showing flashes of the team they could be over the weekend, the Evanston High School girls’ basketball team is still in search of its first win of the season, falling to a pair of ranked teams in Cheyenne Friday and Saturday.
Evanston opened the weekend Friday with a hard-fought 40-29 loss against No. 2 Cheyenne Central (4-1). That was followed Saturday by a 65-33 rout at the hands of No. 4 Cheyenne East (4-1).
The losses dropped the Lady Devils to 0-6 on the season, and have head coach Jeremy Fessler and his staff scrambling to right the ship. Evanston has been competitive against some of the top teams in the state, but are finding that first win elusive.
“We talked to the girls about slowing down and being very specific with our offense — where we need to be, and what we need to be doing,” Fessler said. “We’re going to work on some transition stuff this week, then keep watching film.”
The Lady Devils will stick close to home this week, with games scheduled at Mountain View Friday, followed by the team’s home opener Saturday against Lyman. Both teams are ranked in the Top 5 in Class 3A, adding to Evanston’s already impressive list of tough, non-conference opponents.
“Both teams are ranked, I believe, so that’s nothing new for us,” Fessler said. “Both teams are also very well coached ; both those coaches do an outstanding job. Two quality, quality teams.”
Asked what his team will do to prepare this week, Fessler said the focus will be on creating transition opportunities, as well as getting the ball up the court faster.
“We need to push the ball better,” he said. “We spend so much time trying to get the ball to the wing, and we have a hard time doing it. We want to get the ball out of the point guard’s hands faster. We want our wings running, and we want to get the ball up the floor. We’re going to be working on transition offense, half-court offense and our presses to get ready for this weekend.”
Cheyenne Central 40, Lady Devils 29
“Friday, I thought we played well enough defensively — we held them [Central] to 40 points,” Fessler said. “We did a fairly good job on our assignments, and being where we were supposed to be, being mentally focused. We did a nice job switching up our defense, giving them different looks, keeping them off balance a bit.”
Evanston kept it close throughout against the No. 2 team in 4A, and trailed by just three at the half, 18-15. But turnovers — coupled with a poor shooting percentage — once again proved to be the Lady Devils’ downfall.
“Offensively, we did some OK things,” he said. “We still had 24 turnovers — something that keeps causing us issues. We made some shots, but not enough, because we had so many turnovers. We shot 19% from the field — it’s hard to win basketball games when you have 24 turnovers and shoot 19%.”
Down by 12 in the fourth, Evanston clawed their way back to within seven, but still couldn’t get shots to fall; Central held on for the 11-point win.
“We kept fighting, but we just didn’t make enough shots and get enough stops to get the win, Fessler said.
Heidi Barton led the team with eight points, to go along with three steals. Stacia Barker added seven points, and pulled down a team-high 13 rebounds; Mia Barker and Mackenzie Porter chipped in three points apiece.
“Our guards very rarely get into the paint,” Fessler explained. “They need to get in there and either hit a little jumper, or draw a defender and kick out the ball, either to a wing or to the post. We do a lot of passing around the perimeter, with no pressure on the defense whatsoever — and then we end up turning the ball over 24 times doing that.”
Three-pointers were at a premium, as the Lady Devils converted just two of 13 attempts from behind the arc, one each from Porter and Emily Sawyer.
“Despite our issues, I was proud of the way we played,” Fessler said. “The thing that we’re struggling at this year — besides shooting — is transition offense. Teams press us the whole game, and they’re not going to get out of their press until we can convert some layups on the other end. We are really struggling in finding some girls to go down and attack the basket and get us some layups. We never get anything easy — even a defensive steal up top to get us an easy layup.”
Cheyenne East 65,
Lady Devils 33
The No. 4 Lady Thunderbirds had Evanston’s number from the start in Saturday’s contest, going on a 9-2 run to open the game. East pushed that lead to 33-13 at the half, and duplicated that offensive output in the final two quarters to win 65-33.
“Against East, I thought we struggled from the get-go,” Fessler said. “Offensively, we don’t do a lot of the little things that we’re supposed to be doing. Sprinting on cuts, screening correctly, waiting for screens. Mentally and physically Saturday, we were not there. We struggled the entire game, in every aspect.”
Kambree Brown paced the Lady Devils with eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Kendall Fessler also netted eight points off the bench (going 2-for-3 from behind the arc), followed by six from Stacia Barker and four from Mia Barker and Emily Sawyer.
Stacia Barker and Sawyer led the team in rebounds, with six and five, respectively. Evanston finished the game with 27 turnovers.
“In most of our games this year, we can hang our hat on something — whether we got more offensive rebounds, or whatever the case may be,” coach Fessler said. “This game, I believe East beat us in every single aspect of the game. I was disappointed with our effort.”
The Lady Devils hope to get back on track this weekend against the teams from the Bridger Valley, and Fessler said he expects a good week of practice leading up to Friday’s game at Mountain View.
“Our guards need to get a lot more aggressive — they need to pick and choose when to attack the rim,” he said. “We also need to be able to be patient and find continuity in our offense. Those are the things I think we’re struggling at in this part of the season, and we’re trying to fix those things in practice.”