The PBL Lady Panthers' girls basketball team competed in the regional semifinals on Feb. 13. Unfortunately for the Panthers, their team's season was cut short after falling to the El Paso-Gridley Titans, 40-27.
Before the match up, the Panthers' head coach Nathan Lawler said he and his team knew what to expect from El Paso and their abilities but the result would come down to proper execution of gameplay.
"El Paso's coach and I are good coaching friends," said Lawler.
"We've kind of went back and forth this year and he used to teach within our district so, I have a feeling that they're going to know what we're doing and we're going to know what they're doing so it's going to come down to execution."
Unfortunately, the team was unable to get the results they were looking for and fell behind early on.
"We looked really frantic early on and unfortunately we were never able to get into our pace," said Lawler.
One unforeseeable incident came earlier in the day, when PBL's stand out player, Mackenzie Bruns, came down with an unfortunate illness and was unable to participate in the game.
"We had the unfortunate news break after school and learned that Mackenzie Bruns wasn't going to play due to illness," said Lawler. "So, it was a really tough break on our end. But, I really feel like after we won the conference tournament we were playing very good basketball. It's just unfortunate we were hit with a couple bad breaks at the end of the season."
Lawler used the adversity his team faced as a chance to get some younger players some playing time.
"It was fun to see our younger kids get into the line up," he said.
"Emily Robadeau stepped in as a freshman to start. With her not having much time to prepare for that, I thought she did a really nice job. Some of our younger guards, Lillie Frichtl and Lorena Arnett did a nice job as well."
With the season at an end, Lawler is optimistic about the program's future and is looking forward to the next season.
"Over the last couple of days I've been reflecting on the fact that we have a lot of kids coming back next year. Now, there are going to be some kids that will have to change their roles and step up and continue to develop confidence."
The Lady Panthers will say goodbye to four seniors this year, all of which brought their own unique abilities to the team.
"You're never going to replace a kid like Mackenzie Bruns. There is only going to be so many kids that walk through our school with her natural talent and abilities and we are definitely going to miss her overall presence. Kirra Lantz will be missed as well. She was one of the more looked up to of our players in our program and we will definitely miss her has a player and team leader. Emily Adwell is another senior we will miss. She was supposed to start on Thursday night but we learned that she was also sick. So, I called her over and told her she wasn't going to be starting and she said 'whatever is best for the team', so that just kind of speaks to the kind of player Emily is. And the last one is Bailey Eyre. Bailey battled injuries the last two years and started as a team manager. She definitely worked really hard to become the best person and basketball player that she can."
The team's final record on the season was 21-9. Lawler credits the team's success to the fact that he has extremely coach-able players that want to succeed.
"Obviously we have some really talented kids but mostly I think the key to our success is the fact that they have bought into the idea of playing as a team," he said. "They knew how to go out and play and have fun. Our kids keep getting better and once the kids started to buy in to what we wanted to do we started seeing the results. The future is bright."