Nah, basketball is not a physical game at all...Meghann Cranford ends up on her backside hustling for a loose ball; she and a Riverton opponent both landed on another Lady Wolverine in the fray. Photo by Heather Gifford
GREEN RIVER — While the Evanston Red Devils basketball team lost some ground over the weekend, the Evanston Lady Red Devils team gained some status in the regional tournament for the 4A West Conference, staged in Green River, Feb. 28 - March 2.
Evanston won their potential season-ending, loser-out game against Riverton, 51-39, on Thursday to earn a trip to the state tournament and, in the process, continued through the regional tournament bracket. The Lady Red Devils were defeated by the Natrona County Fillies, 62-24, on Friday, but came back to defeat the Lady Wolves of Green River, 53-32 on Saturday, to place third in the regional tournament.
Evanston entered the tournament as a fourth-seed, and came away a third-seed for state with their third place finish. The Lady Red Devils will open against the Gillette Lady Camels on Thursday, March 7, at 4:30 p.m. at Thunderbird Gymnasium, on the campus of Casper College.
Top-seeded teams from the 4A East and 4A West conferences will square off against fourth-seeded teams from the opposing conference, while second-seeds will meet third-seeds. The top four teams from each conference will earn a state berth. The Lady Red Devils eliminated Riverton, while Green River ended the season for the Kelly Walsh Lady Trojans. The Natrona County Fillies won the championship, without being challenged, defeating the Rock Springs Lady Tigers, 58-16.
In the 4A East Conference tournament, held in Gillette, the third-seeded Lady Camels sent home the Cheyenne South Lady Bison with a lopsided 83-32 win, while the Lady Plainsmen of Laramie ended the season for the Cheyenne Central Lady Indians with a 53-48 win.
The Lady Camels also upset the Cheyenne East Lady Thunderbirds, 73-47, while top-seeded and top-ranked Sheridan flexed muscle in a semifinal win over Laramie, 65-27. East bested Laramie, 60-36, for third place, with Sheridan adding the 4A East Conference tournament championship to their regular season title, with a 54-38 win over Gillette.
The victories over both Riverton and Green River were the third consecutive, as Evanston had swept the home and away conference series against both the Lady Wolverines and the Lady Wolves.
Both of Evanston’s conference wins over Riverton were by three points, sharing additional commonality, with Evanston jumping out to early leads, and Riverton fighting back to make it close in the end. On the neutral site of the Wolves gym in Green River, the Lady Red Devils again began with an early lead, and never looked back. Three starters — McKensie Herold, Hailey O’Neal and Meghann Cranford, along with first-off-the-bench Alli Barker — all contributed points, as Evanston held a 13-6 first quarter advantage.
Everything seemed to be rolling the Lady Red Devils’ way, as turnovers were minimized, the passing game was crisp and their team defense was effective. Behind eight second-quarter points from Herold, the Lady Red Devils stretched the lead to 14 points at the half, taking a 30-16 lead into the locker rooms, outscoring Riverton 17-10 in the second. Herold led Evanston with 13 at the break, while the third leading scorer in the conference, Riverton’s Kiley Ridgeway, had seven for the Lady Wolverines.
By comparison, the third quarter was a defensive struggle, with both teams netting six, and the Lady Red Devils maintaining their 14-point cushion, ahead 36-22, entering the fourth quarter.
The Lady Wolverines did stage a comeback, with by far their most productive quarter offensively, outscoring the Lady Red Devils, 17-15, in the final eight minutes. But it was not nearly enough. Riverton was forced to foul Evanston, who only had one basket in the fourth quarter, but converting 13 of 24 free throws to secure the win.
Herold and Cranford reached double-digits, with Herold’s game-high 15, and Cranford netting 11. O’Neill contributed nine, with Alli Barker adding seven and MacKenzee Barker chipping in five. Kiley Hurd added three, and Pearl Marquez one point.
The Lady Red Devils’ line consisted of 16 field goals and 19-30 shooting from the free throw line, and just 13 turnovers.
The Lady Wolverines ended with 14 field goals, a pair of three-point baskets, and hit five of 10 free throws, while committing 17 turnovers, unofficially. Riverton’s two leading scorers on the season were true to form, with Ridgeway scoring 14, and Camey Felger contributing 11. Savannah Salisbury, who scorched the nets for 17 in Evanston, ended with five. Jenyn Pettit added four, Maci Evans hit a three, and Bree Olson had a fourth-quarter bucket.
The win set the Lady Red Devils up for their third meeting with the third-ranked and top seed in the West Conference, the Natrona County Fillies, who had already punched their ticket to state with their 10-0 conference record, coming in with a first-round bye in the regional tournament. NC was not challenged in the 4A West during the conference run, defeating Evanston 62-29 in Casper, and 48-14 in Evanston. The regional tournament match-up would be no different.
Versus Natrona County
Kaylee Johnson and Sarah Jones combined for 13 of the Fillies’ 18 first-quarter points, while their team defense prevented Evanston from scoring from the field. Sarah Frakes came off the bench to hit four of four free-throw attempts for all of Evanston’s offensive output in the first eight minutes, with NC leading at 18-4.
Johnson scored another seven to lead eight Fillies who had scored in the first half with 14, as Natrona County netted 21 points in quarter number two, holding Evanston to three baskets from Cranford, Marquez and freshman Ashlee Thornock. The Fillies coasted in the second half after establishing a 39-10 halftime lead.
The Fillies doubled up the Lady Red Devils 10-5 in the third quarter, leading 49-15 going into the fourth quarter, where both squads, with reserves on the floor, for the most part, would each score 13.
Johnson hit for a bit over her state-leading 18.1 points per game average, leading all scorers with 20. Sierra Bartsche also finished in double figures with 12, as 10 Fillies reached the scoring column. NC ended with 17 field goals, four three-point baskets, shot 80 percent from the stripe, converting 16 of 20 free throws, while committing just six turnovers.
Thornock led Evanston with six points, with five from Herold, four from Frakes, three from Marquez, and two each from O’Neill, Cranford and Alli Barker.
The Lady Red Devils’ line consisted of eight field goals and eight of nine free throws for 88 percent, but the Fillies forced the Lady Red Devils into committing 25 turnovers, unofficially.
Versus Green River
The Lady Red Devils had defeated the Lady Wolves by 15 points in their first meeting, and by nine in their second. Sadie Mortensen got Green River on the scoreboard first, but the Lady Wolves’ 2-0 advantage would be short-lived and their last.
Kylie Hurd drained back-to-back, nothing-but-net three-point shots from about the same spot, and had another just rim out, and Evanston added to their initial 6-2 lead to go up by eight points as the first-quarter buzzer sounded, leading 12-4.
Herold caught fire in the second, with another eight-point production second quarter, and Hurd hit another from downtown, as the Lady Red Devils outpaced Green River by four points, 15-11, to lead by a dozen at intermission, 27-15. Herold had 10 at the half, while Shayla Strauss led the Lady Wolves with nine.
Cranford converted from beyond the arc and connected on five of six free throws to spark the Lady Red Devils in the third quarter, with Herold adding a three-point play, “the old fashioned way,” and another deuce, with Evanston netting 14, while holding the Lady Wolves to eight points, going up by 20-plus points, in the third, as they would in the fourth. The lead was 18 with three in the books, 41-23.
As with the game against Riverton, the Lady Wolves were forced into fouling Evanston, hoping the Lady Red Devils would miss their free throws in the fourth quarter, allowing the Lady Wolves to get back into the game. But the plan backfired. While the Lady Red Devils did not score from the field in the final quarter, they did convert 12 of 14 free throws to win going away.
Hurd paced Evanston with a career-high 16 points on three treys, and seven of 10 shooting from the stripe. Herold was right behind with 15, with nine from Cranford and six on behalf of MacKenzee Barker. Alli Barker contributed four, Marquez hit both of her free throw attempts, and sophomore Lexi Bown scored her first varsity point, going one of two from the charity stripe.
The Lady Red Devils’ box score was comprised of nine field goals, four three-point baskets and a 23-31 performance from the free-throw line for 74 percent, with just 11 turnovers, unofficially.
The Lady Wolves ended with six field goals, three long-balls and shot 10 of 16 for 63 percent from the stripe, while committing 17 turnovers.
Strauss led all scorers with 17, with Tessa Williams contributing seven, along with six from Jennie Kordus and four from Mortensen.
The win pushed the Lady Red Devils’ record to 10-16, with a 2-1 postseason record to accompany their 5-5 conference season. The Lady Camels team they will face has been top-five ranked all season long by the WyoPreps.com Coaches and Media Poll, finished 7-3 in the 4A East Conference, is also 2-1 in postseason play, and boasts an 18-6 record on the season.
Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. from Casper College’s Oscar “Swede” Erickson Thunderbird Gym.