Girls overwhelm St. Stephens to open conference play

BIG PINEY – An explosive first quarter of the Jan. 22 game against 2A rival St. Stephens left no doubt the Big Piney girls’ basketball team are ready for conference play.

Hitting the court running in front of a pumped-up home crowd, the Punchers outscored St. Stephens, 18-5, in the opening 8 minutes.

Showing no mercy in the second quarter, Big Piney established a significant 32-10 lead at halftime.

Energized by the one-sided first half, Big Piney dominated the second half and went on to score its first conference victory by an overwhelming margin, 63-22.

“We’ve been looking for that win,” said head coach Brian Espenscheid. “All those tough games hardened us up and made us ready. I’m really excited for the girls. Lots of kids were able to score, and that’s always fun.”

Senior Ceci Sambrano opened the first quarter with a close-range shot. St. Stephens attempted to move the ball down the court before senior Hanna Hansen snatched a steal.

Seniors Lena Hatch, Sierra Keiter and Jocie Banks scored two points apiece. Banks grabbed a steal, setting Sambrano up for a jumper.

Banks moved through St. Stephen’s defense to sink a basket. Hansen forced a turnover with another steal.

Drawing a foul, junior Sharianne Brower made good on two free throws.

Hansen grabbed a third steal and sent the ball down the court. Catching a pass, Sambrano sunk a deep 3-pointer.

Maintaining its momentum into the second quarter, Big Piney scored 14 points while a determined defense held St. Stephens to five.

Hatch scored a close-range shot followed by a layup from Banks. Hansen pulled off a steal.

Hatch went on a four-point scoring streak. Keiter broke through the perimeter to score a basket.

Defensive pressure by Hansen and Sambrano forced a turnover. Hansen moved the ball down the court and scored two points.

Big Piney held the lead, 32-10, at halftime.

An unyielding Big Piney two-way attack left no room for St. Stephens to breathe in a breakaway third quarter. The Punchers tossed in 21 points and held St. Stephens to 10.

Keiter forced a turnover on St. Stephens’ first possession. Hansen found herself at the charity stripe and landed both free throws.

Hansen, Banks, Keiter and Sambrano went on an eight-point scoring streak. Junior Hannah Runyan converted an and-1. Senior Autumn Wright moved the ball inside St. Stephens’ perimeter and sunk a basket.

Runyan scored a jumper and Hansen rounded the quarter out with two more free throws.

Systematically eating away at St. Stephens through the fourth quarter, Big Piney scored 10 points while St. Stephens only managed two.

Sambrano snatched a steal early in the final quarter. Banks forced a turnover and sunk a fastbreak layup. Hansen continued to shoot with accuracy at the charity stripe, landing four free throws.

Keiter and Brower capped the quarter off with two points apiece.

Three Punchers scored double digits against St. Stephens. Hansen led with 14, Keiter 11 and Banks 10. Sambrano tossed in nine points, Hatch eight, Runyan five, Brower four and Wright two.

The Punchers host conference opponent Wyoming Indian on Friday, followed by a game at 2A Shoshoni on Saturday.

“This will be a big week for us,” said coach Espenscheid. “Wyoming Indian is a top-ranked team and we will really see what we’re made of.”