EVANSTON — Lady Red Devil basketball head coach Jeremy Fessler is entering his fourth season at the helm, following one of the most successful seasons in school history. The Lady Red Devils finished 17-8 in 2017-18, and were the 4A West regional tournament champions. That’s the good news.
There is no bad news, though the challenging aspect could be viewed as finding ways to match the production lost from departed seniors, two of whom are playing at the next level in Emmery Wagstaff and and Tayler Groll,as well as Hailey Barker, who likely could have played collegiately at some level.
“I would say 80 percent of our statistical production across the board came from our five seniors from last season. They were wonderful,” Fessler told the Herald.
The cupboard is not bare, but it is kind of lean, in terms of returning experience.
“Only AJ (Ajahonna Archuleta), Natalie (Robbins) and Kori (Deru) saw substantial minutes last year,” Fessler explained.
The team will be defensive-minded but will need to develop its offensive arsenal.
“In camps over the summer, when we put the ball in the basket, we were tough and successful. We’ll be tough defensively, as this is a scrappy, hard-nosed group of girls who get after it defensively, but we will need some offensive fire power,” the coach elaborated.
“When you don’t have a scoring punch, it makes you have to rely on being perfect on the defensive end. We’re looking to develop our offense and split the teams into red and white, as evenly matched as we could be to see who emerges as scorers,” Fessler said.
Fessler is assisted by former Lady Red Devil head coach David Deru, as basketball will compete much like volleyball, without a true sophomore team as in years past. There will be a “C-team,” in addition to varsity and junior varsity, along with a full-fledged freshman program.
“We’re trying to figure out who and what right now,” Fessler stated.
Cuts were minimal, according to the coach, as a few girls who the team thought would return decided to pursue other activities.
Evanston will compete in the 4A Southwest Conference or quadrant, with Star Valley, Green River and Jackson.
Fessler believes both Star Valley and Green River will be formidable opponents.
“Star Valley is loaded. They’ll have seven seniors who are very talented and they’ll be tough,” the coach said of the Lady Braves.
“And Green River has three starters from last year, who were injured for most of the season, coming back this year. They should be a very good basketball team,” he added.
Fessler also described Kelly Walsh as “tall, physical and athletic” among the teams in the west and expects Thunder Basin, Cheyenne East and defending 4A state champion Campbell County to be contenders and the teams to beat in 2018-19.
The Lady Red Devils will open the season against Sheridan on Thursday, Dec. 6, in Casper, and will also square off against Natrona County and Kelly Walsh in the season-opening tournament on Dec. 7-8, respectively. The first opportunity to see the team play in the friendly confines of Red Devil Gym will be Jan. 12 against the Lady Eagles of Lyman.