Pressure strengthens Big Piney before conference play

Robert Galbreath photo Senior Sierra Keiter goes up for a shot against Pinedale during the cross-county rivalry game on Thursday, Jan. 13.

BIG PINEY – Non-conference rivals Pinedale and Kemmerer proved a challenge for the Big Piney Puncher girls’ basketball team in the final week before conference play begins.

The Pinedale Lady Wranglers hit the court with speed during the cross-county rivalry game on Thursday, Jan. 13. Big Piney struggled to keep up with Pinedale’s momentum, ultimately taking the loss, 73-28.

On Friday, the Punchers traveled to take on the Kemmerer Lady Rangers. Kemmerer took the win, 41-29, though the scoreboard did not reflect a tenacious Puncher offense in the second quarter and a tough Big Piney defense in the final quarter.

Pinedale

The Lady Wranglers struck fast in the first half, establishing a commanding 33-point lead at halftime.

Senior Sierra Keiter and junior Hannah Runyan both maneuvered through Pinedale defense to land baskets in the first quarter. Seniors Lena Hatch and Autumn Wright added points from the charity stripe.

The Punchers scored 10 points in the second quarter. Hatch converted an and-1 and tossed in two of two free throws.

Keiter went on a four-point scoring streak with senior Ceci Sambrano tossing in a free throw.

Pinedale hammered away in the second half. Keiter and Wright kept Big Piney on the scoreboard in the third quarter. Junior Sharianne Brower added points to the scorebook in the fourth quarter.

Keiter led the team in scoring with 11 points, followed by Hatch with seven and Wright five. Brower and Runyan added two points apiece with Sambrano rounding scoring out with a free throw.

“My hat’s off to Pinedale – they worked hard at it,” said head coach Brian Espenscheid.

Kemmerer

Big Piney kept the Lady Rangers on their feet in a close first half. Sambrano and Hatch both maneuvered through Kemmerer defense to score. Runyan converted an and-1.

Kemmerer edged up at the end of the first quarter to take the lead, 12-7.

Rallying in the second quarter, the Punchers outscored Kemmerer, 15-10. Sambrano and senior Jocie Banks both scored deep 3-pointers.

The Big Piney defense also stepped up the pressure in the second quarter, including steals by Banks and Brower.

Banks tossed in a second 3-pointer. Keiter drew a foul and made good on both free throws, narrowing Kemmerer’s lead to three points.

The Lady Rangers scored again before the buzzer sounded and remained ahead, 27-22, at halftime.

Kemmerer turned the tables in the third quarter with a 13-point scoring streak.

Big Piney eventually found its footing and junior Rayne Wheeler snatched a steal, followed by a free throw.

Big Piney answered back with an ironclad defense in the final quarter, holding the Lady Rangers to a single point.

Hatch broke through Kemmerer’s defense to score. The Lady Rangers took possession and attempted to make their way down the court before Hatch grabbed a steal.

Sambrano snatched a steal on Kemmerer’s next possession. Pressure by Hatch and Runyan forced a turnover, setting Hatch up to score a jumper.

Keiter capped the quarter off with a close-range shot.

Sambrano and Hatch both scored seven points against Kemmerer. Banks added six points to the tally, with three apiece from Runyan and Keiter. Brower rounded the scorebook out with two points and Wheeler added a free throw.

“We had a really good first half against Kemmerer,” said coach Espenscheid. “We handled certain opponents like we were expecting. The second half, Kemmerer came out and got a couple of early baskets and got ahead by 10 points and we didn’t muster enough energy to come back. We have to do a better job in the second half.”

The Punchers begin conference play this weekend, playing in Wind River on Friday and hosting St. Stephens on Saturday.

“We’re looking forward to playing in our own conference,” said Espenscheid. “These tough, tough games certainly have hardened us up and prepared us for 2A foes.”

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