#22 KaciJo Skrukrud shoots a free-throw in the shadow of her Tiger mural she painted.
Last spring the NCHS girls’ basketball team fell just a game short of qualifying for the 2A state tournament and the eight returning letter winners are hungry and determined to not let it happen again. All Conference Hailey Bruegger and classmates Kassidy Miller, Amy Bergstrom, KaciJo Skrukrud and Jessica Bruegger will be expected to shoulder most of the leadership roles with their returning experience. All of them have varying levels of varsity experience over the past three years and when Kristi DeGering and Rishell Lizasuain are added to the mix, head coach Deb Murray has a group that has played a lot of basketball together since their junior high days. “Our shooting was not very good (in the elimination game against Sundance) and we’re working hard to improve that,” said Miller. All of the girls agreed after the dismal 13 percent shooting from the floor during that game is what needs to improve the most. “Attacking the basket and getting offensive rebounds and converting them is a big factor and that would have changed the regional game,” said H. Bruegger.
“They’ve been a really solid group of girls for us for three years and I’m really counting on them for the leadership we need to be a successful team,” said Murray (entering her 23rd year as head coach).
Shooting woes were more than just a one-game issue last season as the team converted less than one third of their field goal attempts and just barely over 50 percent from the free throw line. “There’s a lot of things we need to improve and one of those is getting better looks and shooting at a higher percentage,” said Murray.
With juniors Abbey Larson and McKayle Mosley showing improvement, their height should benefit the team while sophomores Lexie Dockery and Lexi Blackburn provide speed in the backcourt. The sophomore class is eight deep-yet not very tall. Their tenacity and basketball experience will surely help, and as Murray put it “They’re a bunch of kids willing to work hard. As I told the girls (after the scrimmage), we’ve got to rebound the ball, that’s going to one of the big barometers of how successful we can be,” added Murray.
As has been the case the past few years Tongue River is the team to beat until proven differently but Lovell, Big Horn, Kemmerer and Wind River round out the Wyopreps.com preseason coaches/media poll. Thermopolis, Wyoming Indian, Southeast and Burns were also mentioned as teams to watch while Sundance returns the best player in the state in Kacie O’Conner.
Joining Murray on the sidelines this year are assistants Lacey Hauf (6th), Tandy Dockery (8th) and Whittney Coon (3rd), along with Kelsey Scott doing her student teaching at NCHS. If Scott’s name rings a bell, she was an All State athlete at Douglas not too long ago. There are 27 girls playing this winter and will be joined by senior Willow Waldock taking care of the manager duties.
The season tipped off last weekend with the annual Tiger Jamboree. After falling to Sundance, NCHS rebounded with convincing wins over Riverside and Big Horn.
On Friday Lusk got off to a good start against the Lady Bulldogs as Skrukrud put up 12 first half points, while holding O’Conner to just seven. The NCHS lead was 26-20 at the midpoint but the scoring went cold after halftime. Lusk could muster just three third quarter points while allowing the visitors to take the lead. Neither team did much to take control but Sundance did just enough to hang on for the 40-36 win. While the Lady Tigers did a good job limiting O’Conner’s explosive scoring punch, three of her teammates went a combined seven for ten on close range shots.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
SUNDANCE 15/30 FG, 1/5 3PT, 9/16 FT, 26 REB, 7 PF, 26 TO
NCHS 15/40 FG, 3/7 3PT, 3/ 4 FT, 16 REB, 19 PF, 17 TO
NCHS PLAYER STATS: Points- Skrukrud 16, Dockery 8, H. Bruegger 4, Blackburn 3, J. Bruegger 3, Miller 2. Rebounds- Skrukrud 4, J. Bruegger 4. Assists- Dockery 4, Miller 4.
In the nightcap the Lady Tigers matched up against a Riverside team that won just three games last year and will likely have a difficult time matching that total this year. Bergstrom drained three three pointers in the first half and Lusk was off to a 32-9 halftime lead.
Throughout the second half NCHS freely did anything they wanted to as Coach Murray was able to empty the bench. Everyone in uniform played at least five minutes and none more than 20 as the Lady Tigers rolled to a 58-20 win.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
RIVERSIDE 9/23 FG, 0/2 3PT, 2/9 FT, 21 REB, 17 PF, 23 TO
NCHS 22/48 FG, 4/9 3PT, 10/19 FT, 34 REB, 13 PF, 17 TO
NCHS PLAYER STATS: Points- Miller 16, Bergstrom 11, H. Bruegger 8, Skrukrud 7, J. Bruegger 4, Larson 4, Dockery 3, Blackburn 2, Lizasuain 2, DeGering 1. Rebounds- Blackburn 5, Mosley 5. Assists- Dockery 6. Steals- Blackburn 6, Skrukrud 5.
Saturday’s Jamboree finale was against highly touted but winless Big Horn. After a close first quarter, NCHS began to exert their will and moved to a 31-20 halftime lead. Throughout the second half Lusk continued to fluster BH into turnovers and poor shots and rolled to the 57-42 win.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
BIG HORN 12-8-10-12-42
BIG HORN 15/31 FG, 1/ 4 3PT, 11/21 FT, 19 REB, 19 PF, 20 TO
NCHS 21/52 FG, 4/10 3PT, 11/21 FT, 32 REB, 17 PF, 18 TO
NCHS PLAYER STATS: Points- H. Bruegger 17, Dockery 12, Skrukrud 9, J. Bruegger 8, Miller 5, Bergstrom 3, Mosley 2, Blackburn 1. Rebounds- J. Bruegger 7, Miller 7. Assists- Dockery 5.
The JV let a win slip away as Big Horn won in overtime 55-50. Larson led NCHS with 19 points and Amber Jensen chipped in 14. The next day they had little trouble with Riverside in a 41-6 win. Larson again led the team with ten points and Emma Zerbe scored six.
This weekend the Lady Tigers travel to Glenrock for the Herder Classic with games against Thermopolis (5 p.m. Friday), Glenrock (1 p.m. Saturday) and Big Horn (4 p.m. Saturday). The JV plays Glenrock (3:30 p.m. Friday) and Big Horn (10 a.m. Saturday).
For the complete article see the 12-11-2013 issue.
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