After posting a respectable 5-6 pre-season record heading into conference play, the Evanston High School girls’ basketball team has since dropped three straight games, all to 4A Southwest Quadrant rivals.
Following a 49-33 loss to Green River, the Lady Devils (5-9, 0-3 in conference) were 0-2 last week, starting with a close 40-36 loss to Star Valley (8-6, 2-1 in conference) at home Thursday; that was followed by a 47-45 loss at Jackson (2-11, 1-2 in conference) Saturday afternoon.
“Both games sort of mirrored each other,” said EHS head coach Jeremy Fessler. “We got stops against Star Valley, but we couldn’t offensively execute. Against Jackson, we offensively executed, but we didn’t get stops at the end of the game. It was frustrating on both of those ends.”
Star Valley 40,
Lady Devils 36
Evanston welcomed Star Valley in for the Lady Devils’ second home game of the season, and promptly spotted the Lady Braves a quick 5-0 lead. But Evanston countered with a 6-0 run of its own to lead 6-5 at the end of the first quarter.
The lead would be short-lived, however, as Star Valley outscored the home team 19-11 in the second to take a 24-17 halftime lead. The third quarter went back-and-forth, with the Lady Braves holding on to a 30-25 lead, when Lady Devil senior Amber Lowe hit a running 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the lead to a bucket at 30-28.
Star Valley pushed its lead back out to seven at 36-29 before another three by Lowe and a basket by Stacia Barker underneath cut the lead to 36-34. That would be as close as Evanston would get, as the Lady Braves held on for the 40-36 win.
“We’d force a turnover defensively, then come down and give it right back to them with a turnover,” Fessler said. “There were three possessions there late where we could have taken the lead or tied it and we ended up with a turnover without ever even taking a shot at the basket. That was the difference in that game — offensive execution on the half-court end.”
Lowe led Evanston with 13 points, including three 3-pointers; she was the only Lady Devil to score in double figures. Heidi Barton and Zocia Nowakowski each netted five points, followed by four from Stacia Barker, who also grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.
The story of the game was shooting percentage: Star Valley shot 44 percent from the floor, while Evanston countered with 28 percent, despite putting up more shots.
“Shooting is going to be an emphasis going forward,” Fessler said. “We’re already doing shooting drills, but we’re going to bump it up a little bit.”
Defensively, though, the Lady Devils played well.
“Our defense was pretty solid with what we were doing,” Fessler said. “We struggled a bit with our flex and switching that out, but I think once we got up and pressured them a little bit, it gave us an advantage. We got back into the game with that. We just struggled knocking down shots.”
Lady Devils 45
Against Jackson Saturday, Evanston stuck with the Lady Broncs for most of the game, even holding a 1-point lead 45-44 with 12 seconds left in the contest.
But Jackson’s Gracie Hardeman scored on a put-back to give the Lady Broncs the lead 46-45. Jackson added a final free throw with four ticks remaining, and Amber Lowe’s last-second shot rimmed out to give the Lady Broncs the 47-45 win.
Fessler was forced to get creative with his lineups due to foul trouble, and, despite the loss, was pleased with the minutes he got off his bench.
“I looked out there at one point, and we had one freshman, three sophomores and a senior on the floor,” he said. “We’re playing young — we had Taryn Wagstaff out, then Heidi Barton got knocked out, so we were out two of our top three guards for basically the whole game. So we had to throw the younger kids into the fire and see what they could do.”
Evanston had strong games from Lowe and Zocia Nowakowski, each finishing with 13 points to lead the team; Lowe hit four times from behind the arc.
Seanna Ellingford netted six points, while MacKenzie Porter, Taryn Holt and Stacia Barker chipped in three points apiece.
Barker again had a nice game on the boards, grabbing 13 rebounds.
Shooting percentage was again an issue, with Jackson shooting 37 percent from the floor, compared to 27 percent for the Lady Devils.
“Once again we’re behind the whole game, but we came back and took the lead,” Fessler said. “But on two different defensive possessions, we don’t match up in transition, and give up a wide-open 3-pointer.”
Things won’t get any easier for the Lady Devils this week, with road games scheduled at Kelly Walsh (8-4, 2-1 in 4A Northwest) Friday and Rock Springs (8-4, 2-1 in 4A Northwest) Saturday. Fessler said his team will spend this week coming up with ways to defend against the Lady Trojans’ size and Rock Springs’ dynamic scorer.
“Kelly Walsh is enormous, all through the lineup, so we’ll focus on some zone stuff,” he explained. “I don’t know if we can handle them one-on-one inside. We have a couple of bigs, but they’ve got five or six bigs. Rock Springs has a really good scorer in Brenli Jenkins, so we have to figure out a way to eliminate her as much as possible. These are two tough teams on the road, so we’ve got to get our heads up and keep fighting, try to turn this thing around.”