LOVELL – Breaking a school record and a pair of conference wins – a sweet way to open the season for the Pinedale Lady Wranglers at the East-West Classic in Lovell on Dec. 10-11.
Pinedale hit the court with speed and intensity not typically seen in a team until later in the season and swept the tournament with a perfect 3-0 record.
The action opened with Pinedale taking on the Buffalo Bison, the third-place team at the 2021 State Tournament. The Lady Wranglers took advantage of a commanding lead in the first quarter to defeat the Lady Bison, 68-53.
On Saturday morning, Pinedale trounced 3A rival Rawlins, 68-28.
Capping off a successful weekend, the Lady Wranglers routed Big Horn, 94-9, breaking the school record for the most points scored in a girls’ game set during the 1999-2000 season.
“The girls played really hard and it was fun to watch them go out and achieve their goals,” said head coach Trent Bowers. “I was pleased with how they played – Pinedale was really aggressive and shared the ball tremendously. The selfless basketball played on the court really helped us.”
Pinedale’s starting lineup made a “true team effort” in each game, Bowers added, giving a shoutout to the seniors.
“Roxanne Rogers led the way for us,” he said. “She came within four points of reaching 1,000 all-time high school career points – quite an achievement. Abigail Hawke scored double digits or came close in all three games, a big deal since she hasn’t been as involved in offense in the past.”
Pinedale is also fielding younger players as starters this year.
“(Junior) Sara Kunard was a really big offensive and defensive contributor to the game,” Bowers stated. “She scored double digits in each game and played really consistently. Elyn Bowers did a great job and scored a team high of 27 points against Big Horn.”
Bench players logged game time, contributing to Pinedale’s success, Bowers added.
“Haylen Sandner and McKenzie Illoway did a great job coming off the bench and showing up when needed,” he said. “They took care of the little things, made good stops and kept everyone in sync. The energy from the bench fed the girls out on the court.”
The Lady Wranglers set the momentum in an explosive first quarter, outscoring the Bison, 16-8.
Hawke drew a foul in the opening seconds, making good on two free throws.
Rogers snatched a steal, setting Bowers up for a 3-pointer. Rogers followed up with a layup and a 7-0 lead for Pinedale.
Kunard landed an outside shot, maintaining Pinedale’s lead by six points. Defensive pressure by Bowers forced a turnover. Rogers drew a foul and scored two free throws.
Junior Mandy Majhanovich swept in with a steal, allowing Rogers to score a jumper.
Buffalo stepped up its offense in the second quarter but fell short of closing the gap. Senior Olivia Edwards entered the scorebook in the second quarter with a pair of free throws and a jumper. Sandner scored three points, converting an and-1.
Buffalo came within three points of overtaking Pinedale early in the third quarter. Baskets by Bowers, Kunard, Hawke and Illoway stretched the Lady Wranglers’ lead back into double digits.
Pinedale surged ahead in the fourth quarter, scoring 19 points and holding the Bison to 13.
Rogers finished with 24 points, with Hawke tossing in 13, Bowers 11 and Kunard 10. Edwards added four points to the tally while Majhanovich and Illoway rounded the scorebook out with two points each.
Rogers led the team with six rebounds, five assists and five steals.
“Buffalo was a really good game,” said Bowers. “Pinedale did a good job matching Buffalo’s aggressiveness and physicality. It was a good test for the girls and a good win.”
The Lady Wranglers stormed the court in a ferocious first quarter, scoring 28 points and holding Rawlins to 10.
Kunard tossed in 10 points in the opening quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers. Rogers scored seven points, Bowers tallied five with Majhanovich, Hawke and Illoway each adding two points.
Carrying the momentum into the second quarter, Pinedale outscored Rawlins, 22-8. Edwards landed two 3-pointers. Rogers made three shots from the charity line followed by a layup from Hawke, widening Pinedale’s lead to 32 points.
The Lady Wrangler defense struck hard in the third quarter. Pressure by Bowers, Hawke, Illoway, Rogers and Majhanovich caused multiple turnovers.
By the fourth quarter, the Lady Wranglers led by more than 40 points.
Rogers finished the game with 18 points, followed by Kunard at 14, Bowers 12 and Edwards and Hawke both with eight. Sandner and Illoway each added three points and Majhanovich scored two.
Kunard and Hawke led with seven rebounds apiece. Rogers and Majhanovich both snagged five steals. Kunard caught four steals and played four assists.
“We came out trying to match the same intensity we played against Buffalo,” said Bowers. “From the get-go, we left no room for Rawlins to breathe. The girls were really confident and talked well and the team never looked back.”
Big Horn and beyond
The Lady Wranglers left Big Horn reeling in the dust. Pinedale established a remarkable 63-4 lead when the halftime buzzer sounded. Showing no mercy in the third quarter, the Lady Wranglers scored 22 points while Big Horn failed to make a basket.
Five Lady Wranglers scored in the double digits, including 27 points by Bowers, 22 from Rogers, 16 from Kunard and 10 apiece from Hawke and Illoway. Sandner scored five points while Majhanovich and Edwards both added two.
Majhanovich and Hawke caught seven rebounds apiece. Kunard led in assists with six and Bowers snagged nine steals.
The Lady Wranglers travel to Rock Springs and Green River for the Flaming Gorge Classic this weekend. The team will take on significantly larger teams, including Natrona County, Laramie and Cheyenne South.
“This will be a good measuring stick to see where we’re at,” said Bowers. “The challenge will allow us to examine ourselves and tweak any weaknesses and build on strengths before the conference season begins.”