Led by an opportunistic defense and a well-rounded offensive attack, the Evanston High School girls’ basketball team broke into the win column Saturday in dominating fashion, routing 4A Southwest Quadrant rival Jackson 46-16.
“The win against Jackson meant a lot to us,” said Lady Devil post Stacia Barker. “We were all hoping that this game would be the game that we would connect, and it definitely was the one...the fact that we were able to get this first win on our home court in front of our fans was huge. Having everyone cheer us on and support us meant a lot to the team.”
The win snaps an 0-10 losing skid that began in early December, though it came on the heels of a tough 36-35 loss at Star Valley Thursday. The Lady Devils are now 1-10, 1-2 in Southwest Quadrant play.
“Against Star Valley, we played OK defensively,” said EHS head coach Jeremy Fessler. “Offensively, I thought we were still very hesitant — our message going into Saturday was ‘Attack with purpose.’ I thought the girls started doing that [against Jackson]. The two major improvements that we made were attacking in the full and half court, and moving the ball side-to-side, and getting third-side attacks. Two things we’ve been stressing all year, and we finally saw it happen on Saturday.”
The Lady Devils host a pair of 4A Northwest Quadrant opponents this weekend, welcoming in Natrona County Friday, and Rock Springs Saturday afternoon. The Lady Mustangs (9-1, 3-0 in quadrant play) are currently ranked No. 2 in the state, while the Lady Tigers come in with a 2-8 record, 1-2 in quadrant play.
“Natrona is No. 2 in the state for a reason — they’re all skilled, they all can play,” Fessler said. “They rotate nine girls, and they’re going to pressure the heck out of us, all game long.”
Asked what his team will work on this week to prepare, Fessler said taking care of the ball, and eliminating empty possessions.
“We have to keep focusing on what we’ve been focusing on the last few weeks — getting the ball up against the press, and attacking the basket,” Fessler said. “The best way to deal with pressure is pressure back, and make something happen. I hope we saw the light against Jackson.”
Lady Devils 46,
After dropping a heartbreaker to Star ValleyThursday, the Lady Devils came into Saturday’s contest against Jackson with renewed focus, looking to finally shed the monkey of a 10-game winless streak off their collective backs.
They did exactly that, led by 11 points from Stacia Barker, and a defense that turned over the Lady Broncs 25 times. Jackson struggled to get things going, and the home team refused to take their foot off the gas, cruising to a 46-16 win.
“We finally started creating some turnovers with our half-court trap,” Fessler said. “We started out in full-court man defense — girls’ basketball is all about creating turnovers and pressure, keeping people in front of you. I don’t think we ever really let up on Jackson, until the end.”
After building an 8-2 lead in the first quarter, the Lady Devils pushed that lead to 11 by the break, going into the locker room with a 20-9 lead. The Lady Broncs attempted to press early, but Evanston was able to consistently break the press, something they’ve struggled with this season.
“Our press break was definitely an aspect of our game that worked in our favor,” said Lady Devil senior Kambree Brown. “We have struggled with pressure from other teams previously, and knowing it was one of our weaknesses, we have been constantly working on breaking pressure and scoring in fast break situations.”
Evanston outscored Jackson 28-7 in the second half; defensively, the Lady Devils held the Lady Broncs to under 10 points in all four quarters.
“Everyone was participating greatly on the offensive side, as well as defense,” said EHS junior Mia Barker. “Everyone that came off the bench put in good minutes, and helped out in many ways. We have also been able to lower the amount of turnovers, which has been a struggle since the very beginning of the season.”
Stacia Barker paced the Lady Devils with 11 points, to go along with eight rebounds and two steals. Mia Barker followed with eight points, and led the team in assists, with five; she also had four rebounds and three steals.
Sophomore Emily Sawyer netted seven points, and coach Fessler got productive minutes from his bench: Lily Johnson and Mackenzie Porter added five points apiece, while Kendall Fessler chipped in four.
“I would say in both games, every girl that came in seemed to do something positive,” coach Fessler said. “Everybody had a part, and they came in and did their job. You look at the scoring against Jackson — Stacia [Barker] had 11 points, and it was pretty spread out from there. It’s a good thing when you have multiple players who are able to score.”
Evanston turned the Lady Broncs over 25 times in the contest, while committing just 14 of their own.
“My message to the girls was that they need to do that every game, from now on,” Fessler explained. “Do that, and things will start turning our way.”
Star Valley 36,
Lady Devils 35
Much like their game against Ogden in December, Thursday’s rivalry game at Star Valley ended with the Lady Devils in a position to pull out a victory in the game’s final seconds — though shots refused to fall. The Lady Braves avoided being Evanston’s first win of the season, squeaking out a 36-35 win.
“We had plenty of chances to win that game,” coach Fessler said. “We were down one, and had two separate one-on-ones where we missed free throws. Our defense kept pulling us out, giving us chances. We had four different attempts in that last series, and just couldn’t get a shot to fall. Sometimes, the ball doesn’t bounce your way at the end.”
Leading 21-15 at the break, the Lady Devils went cold in the third quarter, with Star Valley going on a 12-2 run to take a 27-23 lead heading into the final frame. Evanston flipped the script in the final eight minutes with 12 points of their own, and a chance to win the game following a put-back by Mia Barker to pull within one. It wasn’t to be, as the Lady Devils were unable to convert a shot as time ran out.
Stacia Barker led the charge for Evanston with a double-double, netting 17 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Mia Barker followed with eight points, to go along with six boards; Emily Sawyer finished with six points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Denied their first win of the season, senior Kambree Brown said the team talked after the game about what needed to change to turn the season around, beginning with the Jackson game on Saturday.
“We need to believe in ourselves and go into every game with confidence and determination,” she said. “[We discussed] the fact that we can still come out of conference play as the second seed. Our season is far from over, each player knows that things need to change, because we have worked far too hard to accept that we will continue to be defeated.”
Coach Fessler agreed.
“Against Star Valley, we did some good things — we just didn’t score enough points,” he said. “We weren’t aggressive enough, and we had too many turnovers. Turnovers were way down against Jackson — we handled their pressure a lot better, and when you take care of the ball, good things happen.”