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Evanston girls squad finishes fifth at state tourney

Posted: Tuesday, Mar 12th, 2013

McKensie Herold goes strong to the inside in the Lady Red Devils’ Consolation Championship game against Rock Springs, attempting to split a double-team, with Lady Tiger Mariah Smith, directly in front of her. Herold was double-teamed often at the state tournament, yet led her team in scoring each game, with 32 points combined, in the three games at the state tournament. The Lady Red Devil senior should be a strong contender for post-season awards. Photo by Heather Gifford

CASPER — In the 4A girls opening round match-ups, not many would have believed Laramie would jump out on Natrona County, and take the Fillies to overtime. That game may have set the wheels in motion for other unexpected outcomes. The top-ranked Sheridan Lady Broncs and the second-ranked Fillies playing for third and fourth? Who saw that coming?

The unranked Evanston Lady Red Devils leading fourth-ranked Gillette, 6-2, after one quarter complete? That had to raise a few eyebrows, but points to the madness factor in March Madness. It’s not really surprising that the Lady Camels came back to win the opening-round game, or even that they ended up as the champions in the 4A girls tournament, but the way in which the Campbell County team scored 18 unanswered points to lead 20-6 at halftime, considering Evanston’s great start and resolve, is probably more surprising than the Lady Red Devils’ initial lead.

But then again, when taking into account six-foot, three-inch Lady Camel Whitney George colliding with Evanston starter and deep-ball threat Kylie Hurd in the first quarter, sidelining the Evanston junior, and first-off-the-bench sophomore Alli Barker going down with an ankle injury in quarter number two, perhaps it’s not so surprising, after all.

Hurd told the Herald it was believed her ACL was injured in the collision, but she hopes the scoping of her knee, scheduled soon, will reveal a less severe knee sprain, instead of an ACL tear. Barker was able to return for the Lady Red Devils in the state tournament, but Hurd’s injury ended her tournament participation and season.

The Lady Camels outscored Evanston 20-10 in the second half to win 40-16, with six-foot senior Sierra Toms, the second leading scorer in the 4A East conference, on the top-scoring team in 4A girls basketball, leading eight Lady Camels who reached the scoring column with a game-high 16 points, with all 12 Gillette players seeing time.

McKensie Herold paced Evanston with four points, followed by three from Ashlee Thornock. Meghann Cranford, Hailey O’Neill, Alli Barker and Pearl Marquez all scored two, with one for Jessie Fraughton. Evanston’s entire 12-player roster saw time.

The Lady Red Devils’ line consisted of six field goals and four-of-nine shooting from the free throw line. Herold collected 33 percent of her team’s 27 total rebounds, just three less than the much taller Camels’ total of 30.

The Lady Camels connected on 17-of-41 field goals, including three of 13 from beyond the arc, and were three of seven from the stripe.

Gillette went on to defeat Natrona County 54-44 in one semifinal, with number one Sheridan falling to previous top-ranked Cheyenne East in the other. The Camels rolled over East in the title game, 69-48, with Sheridan downing NC, 48-43, in the game for third and fourth place.

The number-one ranking in 4A girls basketball during the regular season seemed to be accompanied by a curse, as whoever claimed the top-ranking via the votes in the WyoPreps.com Coaches and Media poll eventually lost to a lower-ranked team, and that trend continued at the state tournament.

Evanston captured consolation championship and fifth-place finish with two wins

The Lady Red Devils’ finish, particularly under the circumstances, has to be as remarkable as any storyline from the 4A tournament. On back-to-back days, Evanston faced two teams that had beaten them twice. The Lady Devils came up just short against the fifth-ranked Lady Plainsmen of Laramie, 40-43, on Nov. 30 in Cheyenne’s McDonald’s Classic, but suffered a 16-point setback in Riverton’s East versus West tourney on Jan. 3, 28-44.

The Lady Red Devils let one slip away against the Lady Tigers in Rock Springs, 36-37, as Savanna Freuler hit a shot in the waning seconds. Then, in the conference rematch, Rock Springs had their second-leading scorer in Mariah Smith back in the line-up, and bested the Lady Red Devils by 10 points, 52-42, on Feb. 22 in Evanston.

The Lady Plainsmen led the NC Fillies most of the game, before eventually falling in overtime, 36-39, which may have left Laramie emotionally spent. But they appeared to come to play, and so did Evanston.

The Lady Red Devils jumped out to a 12-6 first quarter lead, but the Lady Plainsmen doubled up the Lady Red Devils, 14-7, in the second quarter, to lead 20-19 at the half. Neither team could pull away, with Evanston adding eight, and Laramie seven, in quarter number three, to set up a 27-27 tie going into the fourth. 

A Sarah Frakes bucket put Evanston up, 29-27, early in the fourth, but a Jamie Rhodine trey recaptured the lead for Laramie, 30-29. Two Hailey O’Neill free throws gave Evanston a 31-30 advantage, with O’Neill then hitting one of two, to put Evanston ahead 33-30 with 4:33 remaining.

Madison Legerski drained two free throws to pull Laramie within one, 32-33. A 15-foot jump shot from Kensie Herold made it 35-32, Lady Red Devils, but Caitlyn Hensley answered with a bucket, and it was again a single point differential, with 3:42 to go in regulation. 

With just under three minutes left, Cranford made a great pass for an assist, as Ashlee Thornock dropped in an easy deuce, but that would be Evanston’s last points in regulation, up 37-34. Lady Plainsman Katie Kuhn, the 4A East conference’s leading scorer and one of the best three point shooters, connected from downtown, as neither team had been able to convert free throws in the final few minutes, and regulation ended with a 37-37 tie. Evanston dug in defensively, as the Plainsmen had a chance to win before the forced overtime.

Kuhn hit another clutch long ball, giving the Lady Plainsmen a 40-37 advantage early in the overtime, but Evanston freshman Brinae Sanders answered from the left corner, for Evanston’s only three-pointer of the game, resulting in yet another tie, 40-40. Herold scored her final bucket to end with a game-high 15 points before fouling out in the first overtime, but Laramie answered to make it 42-42, with 36 minutes played.

In double overtime, the Plainsmen got a free throw, but Cranford’s basket would be the difference, as Evanston advanced from the Friday morning consolation semifinal with a 44-43 win in double-overtime at the Casper Events Center, without Hurd or Alli Barker in the line-up, down a starter and the first reserve.

Evanston Lady Red Devils 32

Rock Springs Lady Tigers 28

Saturday morning’s consolation championship was back at the Casper College Thunderbird Gym, with a 9 a.m. tip-off. The Lady Tigers jumped out to an 11-4 first quarter lead, which Evanston cut to five points at the half, trailing 11-16. The Lady Tigers led by 10 points, 15-5, at one point during the second quarter.

The second half would feature three lead changes and four ties, including 21 apiece, going into the final eight minutes, but even with MacKenzee Barker fouling out, the Lady Red Devils hung on for the win.

Summer Newman and Mariah Smith, the two leading scorers for Rock Springs, combined for 18 of the Lady Tigers’ 28 points, with Herold again having game-high honors with 13 points, to lead Evanston. O’Neill hit for six, with Cranford, Frakes and Alli Barker, back into the line-up, all contributing four, and Pearl Marquez adding a point.

The Lady Red Devils closed with two wins, upping their seasonal record to 12–17, going 4-2 in postseason play and, like the state champion Red Devils, went out as winners, with a victory to end the 2012-2013 season, capturing the consolation crown and fifth place at state, with back-to-back victories over two teams they had lost to twice.

Statistics, more pictures, details for the upcoming awards banquet, along with Lady Red Devils named to the All- Conference and All-State teams, will appear in Friday’s issue.

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