The Saratoga Sun -

Lady Panthers shake off Cokeville loss; go on to win two at tourney


Doug Radunich

Meredith Lincoln moves past Cokeville's Shyanna McKinnon during Saratoga's first game of the Carbon County Classic. The Lady Panthers lost the game 58-71, but beat Hayden, Colo. (49-37) and HEM (36-26).

After a losing their first game of the season to last year's state champions, the Saratoga Lady Panthers stepped it up to win two out of three at the Carbon County Classic basketball tournament held this past weekend.

The girls lost Friday against Cokeville, with 58-71, but came back and won their Saturday games against Hayden, Colo., and Hanna-Elk Mountain-Medicine Bow (HEM) by 10 or more points. They first took down the Hayden Lady Tigers 49-37, and followed it up with a 36-26 win over HEM's Lady Miners.

Even with the first loss, coach Matt Love said he was impressed with how close they came in losing to a different team of Lady Panthers.

"This is the closest we've ever played the 1A powerhouse of Cokeville; losing 71-58, and we basically had a bad second quarter, where we had a couple players get into early foul trouble and we shot 29 percent from the free-throw line," he said. "We beat them the first quarter and the entire second half, we just didn't put four quarters together. I was happy with our offense in this game, since it has been awhile since we've scored almost 60 points, but we definitely need some work with our defense, defensive rebound, and transition. Cokeville took advantage of beating us up and down the floor, but I'm very happy with the effort from our girls as we got that first game out of the way."

Love said he was also quite pleased with the outcome of the second game against Hayden's Lady Tigers.

"We were up by 20 at one time, then got into a little foul trouble and they climbed back into the game a little," she said. "We did play a little better defense this game and our transition game went pretty well. As long as we get a little better everyday, that's really what matters. I was really happy the way our girls responded to a team we knew absolutely nothing about."

For their third and final game of the Classic, the Lady Panthers were able to take down HEM, in what Love called an "ugly" matchup.

"Coach Jones had her girls ready for us and they played very hard, as they always do, but this game was ugly, which is the only word I can come up with," he said. "We had pretty much our entire starting varsity in early foul trouble, as there were a total of 53 fouls called, and like I said, it was ugly. We finally put our press on, but we weren't planning on pressing at all this weekend, as we haven't even worked on it this season yet. They did get a couple lay-ups on us, but once our young players figured out where they needed to be, the pressure started to shift the momentum our way. We definitely took a step back in this game, but I'm not going to dwell on it; we need to keep progressing."

Love said he had done a lot of soul-searching and homework regarding team play during the off-season, to try and find ways to make the 2013-14 season a stellar year for his current crop of players. This year's edition of the Lady Panthers includes Shelby McGuire, Cruz Escobedo, Mati Love, Veronica Lincoln, Kelsie Samson, Meredith Lincoln, Heather Oxford, Justine Fourman, Haley Soles, Katie Loose and Peyten Fisher, many of whom were Saratoga's volleyball stars in the fall.

"It's mostly about competing at that highest potential possible and being in very good condition, not so much physically, but mentally," Love said. "We must have that mental toughness to get us through the ups and downs, and we must be able to become consistent for four quarters to be able to compete. Basketball is my passion, always has been, and we must compete as one unit to the best of our abilities, with hard work and pride at the highest level possible. They will need these tools not only in athletics, but in life."

Love said also both he and his girls must prepare each day to become better and more consistent, and to compete at the team's highest level possible.

"We must be able to compete with teams such as Tongue River, Big Horn, and Southeast, not to mention Lovell, Thermopolis, Wyoming Lady Chief's, and Wind River," he said. "Yes, this is 2A, and some of these teams could be contenders to win State even at the 3A and 4A levels. I do feel our girls are up to the challenge this year though, it's been a very successful off season. We've played a lot of basketball this past summer and I know it will show this season.

The great things, said he and his girls all have great attitudes and refuse to give up. He said is he excited for what his girls can do on the court.

"In all my years of coaching, I've never been more excited and honored to coach this group we have this year," he said. "We have some great kids and I could single out a few, but as you know I don't do that. I'd have to mention all of them because they're all great kids. I hope everyone will get to our home games and support our girls."

Love also gave a reminder for the New Year Cash Raffle in January, and "Lil Lady Panther" basketball coming up. He said tickets for the raffle are currently being sold.

"Tickets are $10 each for a chance at $500 cash, and the drawing is on Saturday, Jan. 11, when we are host to the Snake River Rattlers starting at 1 p.m.," Love said. "There will also be 'Lil Lady Panther' basketball, which will be third through fifth grade girls during halftime at some of our home games, so be sure to come and check that out. It'll be great to get to know some of our future coming up, and they will get a free T-shirt for playing. We also give thanks to our sponsors who we appreciate very much."

The Lady Panthers host Encampment at 4 p.m. Friday at Saratoga Middle/High School.

Carbon County

Classic Results

Dec. 6

Saratoga vs. Cokeville

58-71 (loss)

Shelby McGuire- 2 points

Cruz Escobedo- 4 points

Veronica Lincoln- 8 points

Meredith Lincoln- 9 points

Heather Oxford- 8 points

Justine Fourman- 20 points

Haley Soles- 1 point

Dec. 7

Saratoga vs. Hayden, Colo.

49-37 (win)

Shelby McGuire- 2 points

Veronica Lincoln- 4 points

Meredith Lincoln- 11 points

Heather Oxford- 9 points

Justine Fourman- 17 points

Haley Soles- 6 points

Saratoga vs. HEM

36-26 (win)

Shelby McGuire- 4 points

Mati Love- 2 points

Veronica Lincoln- 1 point

Meredith Lincoln- 11 points

Heather Oxford- 4 points

Justine Fourman- 9 points

Haley Soles- 5 points


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