It took a little while getting there admits coach Amy Huntsman, but the defending Division IV state champions have made lots of improvements, and by so doing the Lady Panthers routed two opponents in the Southern Division league tournament last weekend.
They clobbered Lund 55-22 on Friday and did likewise to Round Mountain 59-24 on Saturday.
Concerned about containing Round Mountain’s 5-11 freshman Alyssa Hanks in the championship, the Panthers just shut down the whole team.
“We’re definitely a defensive team,” said Huntsman, after the Panthers won their seventh straight league crown.
Hanks came into the title game averaging 15.9 points per game, and her 20 points had led the Knights to a 50-42 win over Sandy Valley the night before.
But against the Panthers, Hanks didn’t take a shot in the game’s first 11 minutes, in large part because the Panthers (15-10) kept forcing turnovers.
When she finally did shoot, she finished with 12 points — eight of those from the free throw line. Still the Knights, as the No. 2 Southern seed, will be making their first state tournament appearance since 1999.
Huntsman said, “We feel like our defense is pretty good. Probably the biggest frustration was that we put her (Hanks) in double figures (scoring) from the line. She’s a great free-throw shooter.”
Nobody else for Round Mountain scored more than six points.
Pahranagat’s defense created 34 turnovers by the Knights, and they shot just 6 of 38 from the field (15.8 percent), including an 0-for-6, 13-turnover second quarter.
However, the Lady Panthers were experiencing their own problems on offense, going just 12 of 37 from the floor in the first half (32.4 percent) and finished 27 of 72 from the field (37.5 percent).
“We were frustrated early because a lot of our shots weren’t falling,” Huntsman said. “It’s pretty tough because girls are a lot more mental about the game. When their shots aren’t falling, they take it personal. It’s not all about the shots. If the shots aren’t falling, we just have to make adjustments.”
Jamie Hansen scored 11 of her game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter for Pahranagat Valley. Kalli Hosier added 13 points, and Madison Harris and Madalyn Taylor each had 10 points.
In the Friday win over Lund, Harris and Taylor each supplied 12 points and five rebounds to lead a balanced attack, and the Panthers closed the game on a 21-4 run to rout the Mustangs (6-8).
Hosier had nine points, three steals and three assists, and Hansen added seven points for Pahranagat Valley, which led 23-13 at the half.
“We like to spread the scoring out,” Huntsman said. ”I think it’s so much more difficult to guard a team that has several kids in double-figures. That’s kind of our game plan. We’re a much better team when we’re moving the ball. We’re very, very quick. We’re not big, but we are fast. You have to play to your strengths, and that’s one of our strengths this year.”
Kelsea Reid led Lund with eight points, and teammate Angel Greely supplied six points and 11 rebounds.
In the state tournament at the Orleans Arena today, Pahranagat (15-10) plays Pyramid Lake (19-7) and Round Mountain (13-12) faces Smith Valley (27-2). The girls championship is Saturday at 11 a.m.
A possible PVHS-Smith Valley matchup in the finals would be interesting. Pahranagat beat Smith 3-1 for the girls Division IV state volleyball championship in November.