PINEDALE – The Pinedale High School Lady Wranglers basketball team led by a single possession, 20-18, at halftime in the consolation semifinals against the Mountain View Lady Buffalos at the 3A State Tournament in Casper on Friday, March 10.
Pinedale had rallied from a tough loss to Newcastle, 54-33, on Thursday evening and left it all on the court during an intense first quarter on Friday morning against Mountain View, outscoring the Lady Buffalos, 16-7.
Mountain View turned the tables in the second quarter, threatening to close the gap and netting 11 points to 4 from Pinedale.
Refusing to yield, the Lady Wranglers initiated a coordinated offense in the third quarter as the Pinedale defense closed ranks.
Senior Toree Andersen went on a 4-point run. Freshman Alyxis White snagged a steal. Senior Sara Kunard netted a deep 3-pointer.
Defensive pressure by senior Haylen Sandner resulted in a turnover. Sophomore Elyn Bowers tossed in a jumper and Kunard scored on a fast break.
Kunard found openings in the perimeter to score twice. Sophomore Gabby Rogers landed a close-range shot. Sandner netted a free throw.
By the end of the third quarter, Pinedale established a 12-point lead, 38-26, retaking the initiative and proving that the Lady Wranglers were back on track.
Pinedale maintained the pressure through the fourth quarter to score its first win at a state tournament as a 3A program, beating Mountain View, 51-38. The Lady Wranglers also achieved their fourth victory against the Lady Buffalos for the 2022-2023 season.
Making a statement at State
The Lady Wranglers reflected on their first State victory as a 3A school after routing Mountain View on Friday.
“We didn’t want to go home and none of the seniors wanted (Mountain View) to be our last game,” said Kunard. “We put that in the back of our minds and focused on getting a win against Mountain View.”
Winning involved learning from the loss to Newcastle and then looking forward, said Bowers.
“On Thursday, we just weren’t playing our game,” Bowers added. “We just had to move on from that and got back into our groove. Ever since we’ve been a 3A team, we’ve never won a game at State. Beating Mountain View was a big accomplishment.”
“The Newcastle game hurt,” Rogers agreed. “But we took a minute and we realized there was still a lot that we could accomplish.”
Pinedale’s triumph over Mountain View allowed the Lady Wranglers to “show everyone who Pinedale is,” said Sandner.
The Lady Wranglers recovered their team chemistry against Mountain View, noted junior Trista Covill.
“I could really tell that we were playing for a lot more than ourselves, and I think that helped,” Covill added. “We were playing for Pinedale, just to show everyone what Pinedale is made of.”
Pinedale “worked too hard” over the season to throw in the towel, said Andersen.
“It was a hard game,” Andersen remarked. “We were sweating our butts off, but we pulled it out. I’m proud of all my teammates.”
Pinedale advanced to play Powell in the consolation finals on Saturday, March 11. The lead rebounded across the court through four neck-and-neck quarters before Powell pulled ahead by a single possession late in the fourth quarter for the win, 47-44, in a battle that could have gone either way.
An historic season
The Lady Wranglers reached new milestones as a 3A program during this successful 2022-2023 winter season.
Pinedale posted 20 season victories, tying the Pinedale High School (PHS) girls’ basketball record for the most wins achieved in a season. The Lady Wranglers accomplished a 5-1 conference record, with decisive wins against Mountain View and Lyman.
Rewriting history at the 3A West Regional Tournament, Pinedale captured second place and entered the State Tournament as the No. 2 seed for the first time as a 3A school.
Bowers earned 3A All-State honors and shattered the PHS school girls’ basketball record for the most points scored in a season, totaling 534 points. Chantal Rule set the previous record of 448 season points in 2017.
Bowers, Kunard and Sandner each received 3A West All-Conference accolades. The Wyoming Coaches Association named Bowers as 3A West Player of the Year.
Head Coach Trent Bowers garnered the 3A West Conference Coach of the Year award.
Coach Bowers credited his team for setting the bar high throughout the season.
“I couldn’t be happier with how far the program has come due to the hard work, dedication and sacrifice each player put in over the season,” said Coach Bowers. “The winter season is long – 58 practices total. Each accomplishment by the team were important steppingstones to the kids. I’m super proud of every one of the girls.”
Newcastle dominated the first half, setting up a 28-8 lead at halftime.
Battling back in the second half, Pinedale scored 13 points to 15 from Newcastle in the third quarter. The Lady Wranglers won the fourth quarter, 12-11.
Bowers led scoring against Newcastle with 11 points. Kunard contributed 7 points, Sandner 5, Rogers 4 with 2 apiece from Andersen, senior Mandy Majhanovich and senior Bella Heath.
“It was a rough first half and we struggled to get shots to fall,” said Coach Bowers. “We made adjustments after halftime and the girls came out and played really well.”
Pinedale pulled out all the stops in the first quarter, outpacing Mountain View, 16-7. Kunard netted a pair of 3-pointers.
The Lady Buffalos attempted to close the gap in the second quarter, tallying 11 points to 4 from Pinedale. Bowers and Rogers kept the Lady Wranglers on the scoreboard in the second quarter.
The Lady Wranglers shifted into high gear in the third quarter and shut down Mountain View’s advance. A reenergized Pinedale offense scored 18 points while a strengthened defense held the Lady Buffalos to 8 points.
Pinedale won a close fourth quarter, 13-12. Sandner went on a 4-point run. Bowers went 2 for 2 at the charity stripe and tossed in a layup.
Majhanovich rustled a steal and Sandner converted an and-1. Sandner forced a turnover and Rogers netted two free throws.
Bowers and Kunard both tallied 15 points against Mountain View. Sandner scored 11 points, Rogers 6 and Andersen 4.
“We approached the game against Mountain View with lots of confidence and were back to playing normal Lady Wrangler basketball – sharing points, finding openings and causing turnover,” said Coach Bowers. “The girls celebrated each other for any little thing and took care of the game. Beating Mountain View at State was another first and something to be proud of.”
The first quarter set the tone for the game, ending in a 13-13 tie.
The Lady Wranglers edged ahead in the second quarter to regain the advantage by a single point, 23-22, at halftime.
Pinedale widened its lead to 2 points by the end of the third quarter, 32-30.
Pinedale remained ahead by a possession through most of the closely contested fourth quarter before Powell scored 3 points at the end of regulation for the win.
Bowers netted 14 points against Powell, Kunard and Sandner 10 each, and White 6, with 2 apiece from Andersen and Majhanovich.