EVANSTON — The 2018-19 Lady Red Devil basketball season came to a close at the 4A West regional tournament in Cody on March 2. Perhaps encapsulating the entire season, some of the Lady Red Devils’ accomplishments were simply amazing at the regional tourney, and a break here or there could have changed the ultimate outcomes, but it was not to be.
Evanston picked up an opening round victory over the host Cody Fillies, 32-15, who had defeated Evanston, 35-34, in Cody, about three weeks prior. The Lady Red Devils held Cody scoreless until just 28 seconds remained in the first half, when future Wyoming Cowgirl Paige Powell made two free-throws. Evanston led 17-2 at the half.
“I think Cody only scored three baskets for the entire game, which is probably a defensive record for Lady Red Devil basketball,” head coach Jeremy Fessler told the Herald.
“We tweaked our initial strategy for that game, but that is the best I’ve ever had a girls’ team execute a game plan,” Fessler affirmed.
“I think we got every defensive board in that first half; I don’t believe Cody had an offensive rebound. It was near perfection for us in the first half of play,” Fessler added.
“We had a bit of a lull to start the second half, but with four minutes left to play in the third, we were in complete control of the game,” the coach said.
Natalie Robbins showed the way for Evanston with nine points and co-captain Ajahonna Archuleta wound up with seven points. Archuleta was again matched up against Powell, but had a little help in slowing her down from Zocia Nowakowski, who was injured during the first meeting, along with Hannah Sowers. Nowakowski and Sowers both chipped in four, with three points each for Amber Lowe and Taryn Wagstaff, and one bucket for co-captain Kori Deru.
Fessler did praise the Wyoming-Cowgirl-to-be: “She must have swatted away at least eight of our shots. She’s a tremendous athlete,” Fessler said of Powell.
The win pitted Evanston against third-ranked Star Valley, who ended up winning the regional tournament, as most expected they would.
“I told the girls, ‘Just give yourselves a chance in the fourth quarter,’” Fessler said.
“Every time we’ve played Star Valley, we’ve been closer and closer.”
Evanston bested the Lady Braves by a basket in the second half but were down 20-10 at intermission in a 42-34 Lady Braves’ win. Fessler cited too many missed shots and too many turnovers as the deciding factors against Star Valley. Abby Coles and Mindie Merritt each scored a dozen for Star Valley.
Archuleta led EHS with eight, with Deru and Nowakowski each contributing six. Wagstaff finished with five, Sowers had four, with three from Robbins and two from Kaelyn Hiatt in the loss.
Evanston was then matched up with a Rock Springs team they had narrowly defeated in a 41-39 nail-biter at Red Devil Gym on Feb. 2. This time, however, it was all Rock Springs, at least in the first 16 minutes.
“They just got off to an amazing start,” Fessler said of Rock Springs.
“They hit six 3’s right off the bat,” he added. “They’re so athletic and drive so well that we decided to step off and make them beat us from the outside and boy, did they.”
The teams were tied at 10 apiece with the first quarter complete, but Rock Springs outscored Evanston 19-4 in the second quarter to lead by 14 at the half, 29-14.
“We switched our whole game-plan at the half and came out in it the third quarter and just played so well,” Fessler stated. Indeed, Evanston went on a 16-1 run that tied the game at 30-30, late in the the third.
“We just had one of our streaks where we went about four minutes without scoring and they pulled ahead by 10, but we battled back again. We played out of our minds defensively and worked our tails off. We just struggled to score the basketball,” Fessler acknowledged.
Deru led the Lady Devils with a baker’s dozen, with Archuleta and Robbins each pouring in eight. Lowe ended with five, Sowers had four and Nowakowski added a free-throw conversion.
Fessler described his team as defensive-minded, hard-working and fun, and more will be shared following the end-of-season awards banquet.
Elsewhere, both the Lyman and Mountain View girls qualified for state, actually facing off for the 3A West regional crown which was won by Lyman, 53-48, in Worland.