KHS girls fall to Sundance, Rocky Mountain at state

Lady Ranger Tyler Thatcher brings the ball up the court during Kemmerer's 33-16 loss to Rocky Mountain Friday in the elimination game at the 2A State Basketball Tournament in Casper. The Lady Rangers went 0-2 for the tournament. (TORRINGTON TELEGRAM/Andrew Towne)

The young but scrappy Kemmerer High School girls’ basketball team — well-versed in overcoming adversity this season — went 0-2 over the weekend at the 2A State Basketball Tournament in Casper, though, in typical Lady Rangers fashion, fought hard until the very end.

The Lady Rangers (15-10 opened play Thursday against Sundance, losing to the Lady Bulldogs 38-28. In Friday’s elimination game against Rocky Mountain, Kemmerer struggled to find a scoring rhythm, falling to the Lady Grizzlies 33-16.

“I thought we competed,” said KHS head coach Wade Fiscus. [The state tournament] is a little bit of a different environment, but I don’t know if it was the environment as much as it was part of what we are as a team — if we get tense, we struggle scoring, so that was probably the main issue we faced.”

Because of their youth and lack of varsity experience — not to mention a first-year head coach and just one senior on the roster — not a lot was expected from the Lady Rangers from the other teams in 2A. Even with the loss of sophomore Janae Skidmore to injury midway through the season — at the time the leading scorer and rebounder on the team — the team continued to play together and win games. Fiscus said he was happy to prove the naysayers wrong.

“There was a parent that came up to me and said, ‘This has been a fantastic season,’” Fiscus said. “I totally agree — it didn’t end the way we wanted, but it has been a fantastic season. We had a great run, the girls really played together as a team. There wasn’t a huge focus on individual stats, or those kinds of things — the girls just really worked hard to be together. We won the games we were supposed to, and a few that we weren’t, so I really feel good about the progression of our team, and what will happen next year.”

As for Sydney Neria, the lone senior on the team, Fiscus said she’ll leave some big shoes to fill.

“Sydney has a unique ability to make everybody feel good,” he said. “Of all of the things, probably the most important thing that she did as a senior was to embrace everybody on the team. It didn’t matter if they were starting, or if they were coming off the bench — she was really the glue that held us together. She provided a lot of defensive stability — I think she led the team in blocks, and I think — because of Janae Skidmore getting injured — led the team in rebounds, as well. Offensively, she stepped up and played really well. She just provided the type of atmosphere to really help us become a team.”

Sundance 38,

Lady Rangers 28

The Lady Rangers came into the 2A State Basketball Tournament as the No. 3-seed out of the West, squaring off against Sundance, the No. 2-seed from the East.

“We were up on Sundance, and the kids were playing well — we turned the ball over a couple of times, and just got tense,” Fiscus said. “We were down by six in the fourth and never could close the gap. It was only a two-possession game until the last couple of minutes, when Sundance made some free throws.”

“I was really proud of our girls — I thought we played really hard,” Fiscus added. “It wasn’t what we wanted to do, but it is what it is.”

Rocky Mountain 33,

Lady Rangers 16

Recently crowned the 2A West Regional Champions, Rocky Mountain found themselves on the wrong end of the biggest upset of the first round of the 2A State Tournament, losing to No. 4-seed Burns, 45-30.

Unfortunately for Kemmerer, the Lady Grizzlies decided to take their frustrations out on whomever they played in Friday’s elimination game.

The Lady Rangers didn’t make it easy. Both teams could manage just two points each in the first quarter, though Rocky Mountain created some separation in the second, going on a 12-2 run to take a 14-4 lead at the break. Kemmerer kept it close in the second half, but were unable to close the gap, falling 33-16 to end their season.

“On Friday [against Rocky Mountain], we knew the Arnold girl [senior Victoria Arnold] was who we really needed to focus on,” Fiscus said. “We focused on keeping her from getting the ball, and defensively, we played really well. The second quarter, we got a little rattled, and turned the ball over a bunch. From there, again, we just got tense. We did close the gap some — we came back, and did some good things in the second half — but we struggled a little bit putting the ball in the hole.”

Sydney Neria and Sophie Archibald led the Lady Rangers with five points apiece; Neria also finished with six rebounds and three assists. Abby Hagge, Ella Thatcher and Tyler Thatcher rounded out the scoring with two points each.