The Saratoga Sun -

By Liz Wood 

Lady Tigers take third at state


Liz Wood

Alyssa Barkhurst fights to keep the ball from the Upton defenders Saturday morning at the Casper College gym. Barkhurst scored 29 points to lead the Lady Tigers in a third place finish at the Wyoming 1A State Basketball tournament.

Alyssa Barkhurst brought her "A game" to the 1A Wyoming State Tournament Saturday morning against the Upton Bobcats.

Barkhurst broke her career record with 29 points, delivering 21 of them in the second half to take the Tigers on to a third place finish at state.

Barkhurst was surprised to discover she had broken her record. "It was pretty intense ... we had to focus on our game," she said.

Barkhurst said she was struggling the first half and the coaches kept telling her during the huddle, "'this is our game'. We have been saying this all year, but this is the first time it hit me – this is our last game."

Barkhurst said she wanted to win for senior Courtney James and for the hometown. "Just do it for them."

Cassidy Little followed Barkhurst's lead with a double-double scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to propel the Tigers to a 48-44 finish.

Little was pretty excited after the game. "I think we earned it," Little said. "We knew we could beat this team," Little said of the Lady Tigers being down the first half. "It was a matter of putting everything together," Little said.

Little added she appreciated all the support she and the team had received over the season.

What made the game more impressive was the Tigers were down 5 points at the half after coming back from a 10-point deficit with less than 5 minutes left in the first half. The half ended 18-23.

A 7-point run helped the Lady Tigers take the lead during the third quarter, one they would have to fight the rest of the game to keep. The score at the end of the third was 33-28

The Bobcats closed in the score at the beginning of the fourth quarter when Barkhurst put on her most impressive performance of the season. Barkhurst took advantage of every turnover and rebound to drive through the Bobcat defense to score.

Micaiah Pantle clinched the deal sinking a free throw with seconds left on the clock.

James and Konnar Knotwell each contributed 2 points to the game. Barkhurst missed a double-double by one rebound and had two steals.

James and Pantle grabbed four rebounds each with Knottwell grabbing two.

James, who moved to Encampment for her senior year, said it great to be able to win with a team she has been playing with all year. "I am so proud of everyone on my team and I am so proud to be a part of it."

James said she has moved three times and she has never been in a school that was so welcoming.

The Tiger's only loss during the tournament was to a foe that went on to win the state championship – Cokeville.

Little took the lead in the semifinal match against Cokeville scoring 14 of the teams 28 points. Little also had eight rebounds.

Barkhurst struggled against the Cokeville defense, which the Tigers were playing for the fourth time this season. The Panthers guarded Barkhurst closely and while she had 11 chances in the paint, she only turned three of them into a score.

James went one for six on 3-pointers. James, McKenzie Powell and Knotwell each had three rebounds. Powell put up 2 points with Pantle scoring 2 points and nabbing two rebounds.

Thursday morning, the Lady Tigers won their quarterfinal game against Hanna-Elk Mountain-Medicine Bow (HEM) 45-35, with 17 of those points made at the line. The Lady Miners' aggressive play at the end of the game got them into foul trouble, and the Lady Tigers had 56 percent success at the line.

Barkhurst, Little, James and Pantle all had strong games against the Lady Miners. Little had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, Barkhurst lead the scoring with 18 points and had 8 rebounds.

James had 8 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Pantle's 7 points and six rebounds.

Powell scored 2 points and she and Knotwell each had two rebounds.

HEM's loss would move them to the loser's bracket where they had a chance to qualify for the consolation game. HEM lost to Lingle-Fort Laramie 45-63. Lingle went on to win the consolation against Little Snake River 46-39.

The third place championship would not be the only coup for the Lady Tigers over the weekend. Pantle received the Pepsi good sportsmanship award in the game against HEM and Upton. Little won the good sportsmanship award in the Cokeville game.

Pantle, a freshman, started in most of the games all season. When asked how it felt to make it to third place at state her first year, she responded, "There is more pressure as a freshman ... I have great teammates. I love to play with them. We did really good and I am glad we got here."

On earning two good sportsmanship award Pantle said, "I thought it was awesome. I like to be classy, I like to thank everyone."

She said she is intense on the court, but there is a difference between being intense and being mean on the court and she prefers to be intense. After every game, Pantle made a point to talk to players on the other team, win or lose.

The last time the Encampment Lady Tigers went to state, Barkhurst and Little were in grade school. The two have played together since they were old enough to join the Utah Jazz program.

In 2005 and 2006, the Lady Tigers won back-to-back state titles and qualified for state in 2007. Clay was assistant coach through 2006, then took over as head coach in 2007.

To prepare the girls for the state tourney, Clay said she used reverse psychology and said everything was going to be okay. "They are very focused," said Clay of the Lady Tigers.

Liz Wood

Courtney James gets a firm grip on the ball Saturday morning in an attempt to get it away from Upton's Kierra Brown.

Barkhurst said she knew the Lady Tigers were the better team against HEM. "We had to focus a lot. Some of us were here for state volleyball and knew about the lights, we knew about the fans and everything, but it was different for basketball," Barkhurst said. "We had to focus a lot and just play our game."

Barkhurst admitted she was nervous going in. "They wanted it and we had to work for it," she said.

With the HEM defense blocking Barkhurst out, she said "We had to be sharp. Coach always tells us to be sharp, and focus and make good passes and really concentrate on the task at hand."

That advice paid off for the Lady Tigers, especially considering the fact that with the Casper Event Center's open court the players did not have the depth perception they do in a court with back walls. The Lady Tigers are known for their 3-point game, but Clay told the girls to concentrate on their inside game.


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