Lady Devils split road swing against Cody, Riverton

The Evanston High School girls’ basketball team was back on the road last weekend, running into a buzzsaw against top-ranked Cody Friday, but rebounding Saturday with an all-around team effort in a win at Riverton.

The Lady Devils (5-13, 1-2 in 4A SW Quadrant) discovered for themselves why the undefeated Fillies (13-0, 3-0 in 4A NW Quadrant) have been the No. 1 team in 4A all season, falling to the home team 76-24.

“Cody’s a special basketball team, and sometimes you have to tip your hat to a team that’s as special as they are,” said EHS head coach Steven Neal. “They’ve been beating up on everybody all year. I wasn’t disappointed or upset with our girls — I thought we played hard, we just ran into a freight train that was the Cody Fillies.”

Following the loss, the Lady Devils hopped on the bus for the trip back to Riverton, and if the quick turnaround bothered coach Neal’s squad it didn’t show — Evanston controlled every aspect of the game Saturday afternoon in a 50-26 win over the Lady Wolverines (3-15, 0-3 in 4A NW Quadrant).

“Against Riverton, I thought that was one of our more beautifully-executed team wins — we got everybody in that game, and almost everybody scored, so we shared the ball well,” Neal said. “We did well in transition, we did well against pressure — it was a physical basketball game, but one where we were the dominant, physical team. We weren’t being pushed around, we stood our ground well. And our girls fought hard. Couldn’t be more proud of them, they’re really coming together.”

The Lady Devils begin their second trip through the 4A Southwest Quadrant this week, starting with a game at Green River (8-8, 3-0 in 4A SW Quadrant) Thursday, and continuing Saturday at home against Star Valley (11-7, 2-1 in 4A SW Quadrant). Evanston will close out the regular season at home next weekend against Jackson.

“Defense has been a real hallmark for us as of late,” Neal said. “We have been working on our physicality — we want to make sure we dominate the boards. We’ve been the better rebounding team in most 4A games, but midway through the season, Green River took that top spot from us, so we’re excited to go battle with them and try to get that No. 1 rebounding spot back, obviously with a win. Mental toughness — we know we’re not always going to be the best shooting team, or the fastest team. But what we’ve really hung our hat on is we can be the best conditioned team, and we can be the toughest team. So a lot of physicality, a lot of defensive implementation over the second part of the season.”

Cody 76,

Lady Devils 24

The Lady Devils proved to be a handful in the first quarter for the No. 1 team in 4A, keeping the score close at 19-11. The Fillies began to heat up in the second quarter, however, as junior phenom Molly Hays took over, leading Cody on a 32-6 run and a 51-17 lead at the break.

When the dust settled at the end of the contest, Hays led all scorers with 34 points, and the Fillies remained undefeated with a 76-24 win.

“The conversation we had with the girls after the Cody game was, ‘What can we learn from this?’” Neal said. “We had an experience playing against a group of girls who are going to play collegiate-level basketball — what did they do that was difficult to deal with? Some of the girls talked about Cody’s ball movement, how hard they drove, how fast they cut, their defensive stalwartness. It was obvious they had put in a lot of hard work, and they had really good chemistry. Each of our girls took something from being in that game, experiencing what it was like to play a really high level — most likely state championship level — team.”

Kendall Fessler and Emily Sawyer paced the Lady Devils with seven points apiece; Fessler also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. Halle Brady sank a pair of 3-pointers for her six points, while Jacey Bardsley and Ellie Asay chipped in two points apiece.

Lady Devils 50,

Riverton 26

Bracing themselves for a quick turnaround after Friday’s loss to Cody, the Lady Devils displayed no ill effects of a long day on the road the day before, earning the weekend road split with a 50-26 win over Riverton.

“Against Riverton, I thought it was a great team effort,” Neal said. “I thought our leaders led, our role players played their roles, our rebounders rebounded, our scorers shot. Even if a particular player wasn’t having their best game, somebody else lifted them up. There was a lot of positive energy — Riverton is a better basketball team than I think their record shows. They played a four-point game against Star Valley, and we had a lot of respect for them going into that game, we knew that they were dangerous. It wasn’t a gimmee game — we had to overcome some obstacles and challenges to be successful. Honestly, our grit is what I was most proud of.”

Halle Brady led the charge for the Lady Devils with 13 points, including three shots from behind the arc. Emily Sawyer recorded a double-double for the game, netting 10 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, while Brinkley Francom added seven points, to go along with three steals. Kendall Fessler and Jacey Bardsley finished with six points apiece, while Ellie Asay chipped in four points, and led the team in steals, with five.

“Our post players have been doing an absolutely phenomenal job — if it’s inside and they can score, they do, or they get fouled,” Neal said. “If it’s not there, we’re doing a much better job of kicking it outside to the 3-point shooters, because we have so many of them. Halle Brady, Brinkley Francom can hit the outside shot, Emme Fessler is hitting a lot of shots for us, Kendall will hit some shots, Ellie Asay will hit some shots. We just have so many options, and it’s been so fun to watch our girls grow, and execute our game plan.”