Ladies bring home hardware

By: 
Sonja Karp, NLJ Sports Editor

Sonja Karp

NLJ Sports Editor

 

It wasn’t the trophy they had in mind as the Lady Dogies set out at the beginning of the season, but head coach Chad Ostenson’s squad brought home the first one since 2008 as they finished as the Consolation Champions at the 3A State Tournament last weekend. 

“We won as many games at the tournament as anyone except Douglas [state champs], but losing the first put us out of the fight for the title,” Ostenson said with a sigh. “We played 11 quarters of really good basketball, but when you’re going up against the best teams in the state, even one bad quarter can hurt you — and on Thursday morning, it did.”

The Lady Dogies played the first contest of the 3A Tournament as they tipped off against the No. 2 seeded Lady Tigers of Lander at 9 on Thursday morning at the Ford Wyoming Center. 

Other than the start of the first quarter where the Lady Dogies played pretty tight and struggled to adjust to playing on the wide open, big court of that venue, they played the Lady Tigers tough. Having to foul in the waning moments of the game, and good free-throw shooting by Lander inflated the score to a 7-point differential of 45-52 when the final buzzer blew.

“That first quarter was rough for us and it’s tough to come back when you dig yourself a hole to start,” Ostenson began. “We didn’t get out and run and throw the ball down the court like we usually do, but they played great defense and made it tough on us to do that.”

It was six minutes in before Newcastle got their first points, but from there they settled in and played. Unfortunately, the squad who normally shoots very well struggled to dial in on the hoop which can be a challenge when they stand as solitary stanchions with nothing behind them to aid in depth perception.

“It’s a little tough to get used to shooting at the hoop when there’s nothing behind it,” admitted Hunter McFarland. “We were also a little nervous because they play really good defense, and there was so much riding on that game.”

The Lady Dogies found themselves down 5-11 at the end of the first quarter. After they settled in, though, they out-scored the Lady Tigers 13-8 to go into the locker room only down one, 18-19. 

“We felt comfortable and confident going into the half,” McFarland said. “We were ready to play our game and not play the way they wanted us to play.”

Both teams traded blows in the third frame and scored 13 points each, and then in the fourth, Lander was able to put up 20 points to Newcastle’s 14.

“I’ve got to give credit where it’s due; the kids did battle back to tie it with three minutes left,” Ostenson said. “I thought we might just get over the hump, but then they hit a pretty big 3 down the stretch.”

The Lady Dogies had their chances right down to the wire. With 8 seconds to play, Shelby Tidyman dribbled baseline under the basket, passed out to MacKenzie Conzelman on the left side wing and Conzelman drained her first 3 of the game to tie it. However, the official called Tidyman for stepping on the baseline prior to the pass, so the shot was called off.

“I actually got shoved pretty hard on that baseline drive,” Tidyman said. “I don’t think I stepped on it, but then one of their players yelled that I stepped on the line and the official called it. But not until Mack’s shot had already fallen.” 

Tidyman led the team with 20 points while Jaylen Ostenson scored 14. Hunter McFarland added 7 points and Tiernan Stanton chipped in 4 on the day.

The Lady Dogies had less than 24 hours to mourn the loss of winning a state title and dust themselves off before they took on the Mt. View Lady Buffaloes on Friday morning, playing once again at 9 a.m. The winner of this contest would have a shot at the Consolation Champion title.

“The loss to Lander was pretty heartbreaking because we knew we could have, and probably should have won,” said Stanton. “But then we had to get the mentality that it wasn’t over yet, and we could either crawl in a hole and cry, or we could use it as a way to push through our next games.” 

The team that took to the court that morning was the team that Dogie fans had watched all season. Where they had struggled a bit, comparatively, to shoot from beyond the arc in their last few contests, they exploded off the tip and were dialed in from downtown. 

“Mack the Gun” Conzelman was back in town as she went 5-7 from 3, McFarland hit 2-3, Ostenson 2-4 and Tidyman 1-3, which added up to 30 of the ladies 58 points in the contest.

“Things just started to click for us,” Conzelman said. “I think it was the shoes. I wore Jaylen’s shoes in the Lander game and then went back to mine for Mt. View.”

Newcastle took the lead and never looked back as they cruised to their 58-40 win over the Lady Buffs.

“We played great defense and ran the court well against them on Friday morning,” Ostenson said. “We also turned around and shot much better at the college than we had at the Ford Center, and it just put a smile on my face when I saw Mack hit that first 3 because then you know they all are going to start falling and we’re going to be okay.”

The Lady Dogies led 17-10 at the end of the first quarter and 32-19 when they hit the locker room at half time. In the second half they out-scored Mt. View 26-21 to grow their lead to 18 and guarantee themselves one more game for their season.

“We played like we normally played, and were the team we’ve watched all year,” Ostenson said. “I’m glad they played like they did so everyone could see why we were ranked No. 1 for a good portion of the season.” 

Ostenson led the team with 17 points, Conzelman was next with 15 and Tidyman was right behind with 14 points. McFarland had another 7 and Stanton added 5 and pulled down 10 rebounds.

The win set them up to take on the Lady Trailblazers of Torrington in the Consolation Championship, which was played at 9 o-clock on Saturday morning. Going into the contest, the Lady Dogies were determined to bring home some hardware.

“We got pretty good at playing that early game,” chuckled Ostenson. “But this was an important one because we wanted to win the last game of the year. There are only three teams who get to do that, and we wanted one of those to be us.”

Things began a little slow for both teams with Torrington striking first hitting a 3-point shot. After the initial long-ball, both teams traded points from beyond the arc, with Newcastle hitting only from the outside in the quarter. The Lady ‘Blazers finished the first frame with the 15-9 lead over the Lady Dogies. 

“We were playing a little slow so at the quarter we had a heart-to-heart about whether they wanted to do it or not,” Ostenson said. “They then dug down, got the ball out and started pushing the ball down the court.”

After the discussion at the break, the Lady Dogies hit the court for the second quarter and ran over the ‘Blazers 24-11 to take the 33-26 lead into the locker room. Once they took the lead, they never looked back.

“We got our butts chewed a couple of times there in the first quarter so that kind of got us going,” Jaylen said. “Between that and running our 1-3-1 defense, we stepped it up and got going.”

Torrington made a valiant effort to try to get back in the game, and did manage to stay with Newcastle a little better in the second half, however the Lady Dogies led by as much as 15, before the ‘Blazers were able to take advantage of the last couple of minutes to score 5 unanswered points and pull to within 10. The 64-54 win gave Newcastle the first trophy since 2008 as they were awarded the Consolation Championship.

Ostenson once again led the team with 23 points, Conzelman had 20 and Tidyman was also in double figures with 14 points. McFarland scored 5 points and Jayde Harrington rounded out the scoring with 2. 

Winning the final game was a great way to cap off the season for the Lady Dogies, and already the team is turning their eyes to next season.

“I feel like we have unfinished business,” declared McFarland. “It was nice to end on a win, and it was better than last year — but we want more.”

The Lady Dogies lose only one from their roster as senior Bailey Benshoof finished her career. As sixth man, Benshoof provided great minutes for the team throughout the season, and Coach Ostenson said he is on the hunt for someone to step up to fill her shoes.

Looking at next season, Buffalo will be returning seven solid players, and gave Newcastle their first loss to a Wyoming team at regionals. 

“I think it’s okay to have Buffalo in our heads over the summer,” Jaylen said. “I feel like we’ve got a little bit of
a chip on our shoulder, and
we want to prove we’re the better team.”

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