Lady Tigers claw Panthers in first home cat-fight

 

Doug Radunich

Encampment's Cassidy Little makes a pass to teammate Alyssa Barkhurst, while being guarded by Saratoga's Veronica Lincoln. The Lady Tigers won 56-28.

The Encampment Lady Tigers, who won only one game last year, proved they could be heading for a major turnaround season after a 56-28 win over Saratoga.

The Saratoga High School gym was packed Friday evening, with anticipation as to which Platte Valley team would beat their rival in the first non-tournament game of the season. Encampment coach Amy Clay said she was surprised to see her Lady Tigers (4-0) win by 28 points in their fight against the Lady Panthers (3-2).

"Last year we won one game and I know I've said that a million times, but they really paid their dues," she said. "I guess they're ready to step up, and this group is really coachable. I was feeling pretty confident, but I had no idea we'd beat them by that much."

Encampment proved to be consistent scorers during the game, while Saratoga suffered several missed shots. For the Tigers, Cassidy Little was the star scorer of the night, acing 24 of the team's 56 points. Alyssa Barkhurst came in next with 16 points, McKenzie Powell scored eight points and Konnar Knotwell and Jenny Morgan both secured four points each.


"My freshmen just stepped up, and with Cassidy and Alyssa, I'm just speechless and I don't know what to say," Clay said. "They all just played really good team basketball, and I don't like to single them out because they all really played good team basketball. Next we play Rock River and the Rawlins JV, and I'm excited because this is a 2A school, our big rival. Hopefully, our emotions don't get the best of us and we have a big letdown, because sometimes that happens with young kids."

Saratoga coach Matt Love said missed shots was definitely a key in their downfall. The Panthers had five scorers for the evening, with Justine Fourman grabbing 11 points, Meredith Lincoln sinking nine, Mati Love making four, Heather Oxford scoring three and Haley Soles pitching in one.

"In the beginning of the game I felt like we were getting inside fairly well, but we were just missing the shots," Love said. "We worked hard, but we've got a long way to go and a lot to work on. We were mostly a zone team and we're trying to make that transition to man-to-man, so it's going to take us a little while to get the hang of it. I just want to get this game behind us and get going."

After Friday's loss, the Lady Panthers went on to beat North Park, Colo. with 50-41 Saturday. Love said his girls played much better in that game than in the one the night before. 

"We played much better defense and showed some patience at the end of the game to run our offense and taking some time off of the clock," he said. "I was also pretty happy with our transition game. We were up by 17 or so in the first half, and they climbed back into the game a little bit right after halftime, making the second half pretty interesting. After shooting 15 percent from the field on Friday night we shot 38 percent from the field, so it was good to see some improvement there."

Love said he also noticed improvement with turnovers and steals.

"Also as a team we had 15 steals and only 10 turnovers, but we need to keep our turnovers to under 10, at least," he said. "We still have a lot of work to do on the defensive end, but I was happy with our overall performance being this early in the season."

With losing their first non-tournament game to their biggest rival, Love said he felt his team can become stronger and realize their potential even more.

"The only thing that I hope I can state in about two months is, 'the best thing that happened to us this season was losing that game against Encampment at the beginning of the season, because it made us realize that we must play to our potential, no matter who we play,'" he said. "I really hope I can say that in about two months, and I guess we'll wait and see."

Saratoga's junior varsity team also beat Encampment's 28-10 Friday, and North Park's 37-30 Saturday. Saratoga's next game is against the Little Snake River Rattlers at 1 p.m. Friday, at LSRV School in Baggs.

Encampment's next game is a junior varsity matchup against Rawlins at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, at Rawlins High School.

 

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