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Lady Pioneers season ends in Lander

TEN SLEEP - It wasn't how they wanted it to end but the 2018-19 Ten Sleep girls basketball season came to a close on Feb. 23 in a 62-30 loss to the Farson-Eden Lady Pronghorns during the 1A West regional tournament at Lander Valley High School.

"Our message to them was that they had a great season and you can't take that away from them," said TSHS girls basketball coach Sarah Novak. "We felt like we didn't play our best against Farson but they helped us realize the things we need to work on in the offseason. Our girls should hold their heads high because they had a great season, we met two of our three goals. We just need to become better shooters and ball handlers, and those are things to work on this offseason."

Entering the tournament at the No. 2-seed out of the 1A Northwest, the Lady Pioneers opened against the SW No. 3-seed, the Little Snake River Lady Rattlers. Of their three games at regionals, Novak thought the Snake River game was the most frustrating.

The Lady Pioneers executed on every facet of their game plan against the Lady Rattlers. They controlled the boards and navigated the Snake River pressure well. The only problem was getting shots to fall.

Ten Sleep had open looks all game and took quality shots but the rims in the auxiliary gym of Lander Valley High School were unforgiving. The free-throw line, long an area of concern for the Lady Pioneers, came back to haunt them as well.

The Lady Pioneers went 1-9 from the charity stripe and Snake River won the game 31-25.

"I felt we beat Little Snake in every aspect, except the scoreboard. We controlled the boards, handled their press and handled their defense. We got the shots we wanted but just didn't knock them down. It was disappointing because we played well and it just didn't show up on the scoreboard," said Novak.

"Everyone else was struggling to hit shots but Lindsey [Holiday] kept us going. The team recognized that and kept feeding her. Our free-throw percentage wasn't good, we were 1 for 9 for the game. I told them that when push came to shove that free throw shooting was going to be our nemesis. We lost by seven and went 1 for 9 from the line. That's the nature of the game and the kids know we weren't the best shooters in the world and we're going to have to work at it to improve."

In the consolation bracket, the Lady Pioneers met Northwest rival the Meeteetse Lady Longhorns in a loser-out game. The free-throw line hurt them in their quarterfinals loss but against the Lady Longhorns, Ten Sleep found their rhythm.

In the first quarter alone, Ten Sleep went 8 for 10 and for the game was 22 for 36 from the free-throw line as they cruised to a 46-34 win.

"We got some transition things against Meeteetse and they fouled us and put us on the free-throw line. We were 8 for 10 from the line in the first quarter, we didn't shoot a great percentage for the game but we were better. There were a lot of fouls called that game.

"We finished that game with Bryley [Moore] on the bench because of fouls. Kinley Erickson had an outstanding game with 21 points and eight rebounds, she just took over when Bryley fouled out," said Novak. "And everyone looked to her when Bryley went out. She was our calming force and brought the ball up for us. We shot the ball better and made better decisions. It's not often you beat the same team three times."

Advancing to the consolation semifinals, the team standing in the way of the Lady Pioneers and their goal of making state, was the Lady Pronghorns.

The game between Ten Sleep and Farson-Eden was a clash of styles, the Lady Pioneers like to play a slower-paced, defensive grind of a game; while the Lady Pronghorns like to get out and run and create as much havoc as they can.

Unfortunately for Ten Sleep, Farson-Eden's style won out as they used a strong 37-10-point first half to eliminate the Lady Pioneers from postseason play.

"They picked us up full-court man-to-man for the full game. We just lacked confidence and turned the ball over and they jumped out to a 14-5 lead in the first. It was all in transition and it kind of shell-shocked us and we just couldn't get out of it after that. We played better in the second half and handled the pressure better. But they're a very good team because of the style they play. They're in your face, they're physical, they crash the boards and most of their offense comes from transition," said Novak.

A recap of the Lady Pioneers season will be in next week's edition of the Northern Wyoming News on March 7.