Lady Devils split two-game home stand

EHS head coach Stormy Dolezal shouts encouragement to her team on the floor, while the Lady Devils’ bench cheers during Saturday’s 37-20 home win against Jackson. The Lady Devils will travel to Casper Friday to take on Natrona County. (HERALD PHOTO/Don Cogger)

The Evanston High School girls’ basketball team had a rare, back-to-back home stand against a pair of quadrant rivals over the weekend, earning a split for their efforts.

The Lady Devils (6-8, 1-3 in conference) squared off against Star Valley (5-8, 2-1) in a dogfight on Thursday, falling 36-29 in a game marked by physical play from both teams. Evanston was able to regroup Saturday, controlling the action for most of the contest in a 37-20 win over Jackson (2-9, 0-3).

“I was really pleased with how the girls came back on Saturday against Jackson, especially considering the disappointing play we had Thursday against Star Valley,” said EHS head coach Stormy Dolezal. “It was a positive weekend for us – I think the girls have a little more confidence going into this week against Natrona County. It’s just what we needed, I think.”

After a brief home stand, the Lady Devils are back on the road this week, taking on Natrona County (9-5, 1-2) Friday in Casper.

“I know Natrona is gonna pressure us, so if we can handle the press, I think we’ll be in good shape,” Dolezal said. “They have a really good point guard, as well as a good post player, but I think they don’t quite have the dynamics that they’ve had in years past. If we can handle the pressure, get it to our bigs for them to hit easy shots, I think we’ll be in good shape. But I think our biggest test will be handling the pressure they put up.”

Star Valley 36,

Lady Devils 29

Thursday’s Star Valley game was about as physical a game as you’ll see at the high school level, with no love lost between the two teams.

“I’ll hand it to the refs, they really let the girls play,” Dolezal said.

The Lady Devils started strong, jumping out on a 12-2 run in the first quarter. Star Valley answered with a run of their own in the second quarter, and brought things back to even 18-18 by the break.

“We had a good first quarter against Star Valley, and then we kind of fell apart,” Dolezal said. “Fundamental-wise, we were just poor with the ball – we couldn’t hang on to it, and then we missed a lot of gimmees. We gave them some easy looks. We just didn’t quite play like ourselves for the last three quarters.”

The Lady Braves picked up where they left off to start the third, and led 27-22 heading into the final frame. Down by 10 33-23 in the fourth, Evanston was able to pull within four at 33-29, but that’s as close as they would get, as Star Valley held on for the 36-29 win.

“We tried to come back there at the end of the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late,” Dolezal said. “It was disappointing. The girls know they can play better, and they can get them next time.”

Emily Sawyer and Melia Wilson paced the Lady Devils with seven points apiece, followed by four points from Mia Barker. Kaitlin Deru and Lily Johnson added three points each, while Abbie Rigby and Stacia Barker each chipped in two. Kendall Fessler rounded out the scoring with a point.

“I thought our guards were pretty good at the very beginning, and Emily Sawyer was consistent for us the whole game,” Dolezal said. “With Stacia Barker, it was almost like we couldn’t utilize her the way we should have. We struggled with the press, and that’s something we’ve been handling pretty well, as of late. We just threw the ball away so many times – we’d make a great play at one end of the floor, and then come down and shoot ourselves in the foot on the other end.”

“It seemed like everybody had some really good plays at some points of the game, and then some really bad plays,” she added.

Lady Devils 37,

Jackson 20

Against Jackson Saturday, the Lady Devils once again got off to a quick start, holding a 9-4 lead after a quarter of play. Jackson got things going offensively in the second, though Evanston held a 15-11 lead at the break.

The Lady Devils continued to roll in the second half, and led 21-17 after three. Evanston pulled away in the fourth quarter, holding Jackson to just three points in the final frame, en route to a 37-20 win.

“Against Jackson, I thought we did a good job of controlling the tempo of the game, controlling the pace and using our strengths,” Dolezal said. “Jackson has some size, but I think our post play was so much better than theirs. Defensively, our posts were just a little bit more aggressive, maybe a little smarter about where they were at. I thought Stacia [Barker], Emily [Sawyer] and Lily [Johnson] did a really nice job handling their good players in the post.”

After being held to just two points Thursday against Star Valley, senior post Stacia Barker got her groove back against Jackson, netting a game high 15 points. Kendall Fessler followed with seven points, while Emily Sawyer and Melia Wilson added four points apiece. Lily Johnson, Abbie Rigby and Mia Barker chipped in two points each, while Kaitlin Deru rounded out the scoring with a point.

“Our guard play I thought was really, really good,” Dolezal said. “We pressured the ball, we got some easy turnovers and we didn’t turn the ball over as much. I was pleased overall, with everybody –- they all played a solid game for four quarters. I thought they did a nice job.”

With just a couple of weeks left in the regular season, Dolezal said finishing the weekend on a winning note will pay dividends down the stretch.

“Winning at home is huge,” Dolezal said. “After the Star Valley game, we were in a low spot. It was a bad vibe, bad energy. This Jackson win was huge for us – it got the girls back on track, and they know they can play. They know they’ve got six really big games coming up that will dictate where we fall at regionals and state, so I think they just needed that confidence boost. This is a tough time of year –- the basketball season is so incredibly long, so it was the perfect time for us to get a win like that.”