Catching a second wind

By Observer staff February 28, 2014 12:15 pm

Imbler freshman Lexee Robertson (4) defends a shot by Powder Valley’s Sally Mary Blair (20) during the Old  Oregon League postseason tournament Saturday. (NANCY CAMPBELL photo)
Imbler freshman Lexee Robertson (4) defends a shot by Powder Valley’s Sally Mary Blair (20) during the Old Oregon League postseason tournament Saturday. (NANCY CAMPBELL photo)

Panthers eye a return to Baker City, host Prairie City in second round 

After 23 games the Imbler girls basketball team is catching its saecond wind.

The Panthers brought home the regular season Old Oregon League title with an 8-2 record, and finished the regular season 18-5 overall. Imbler also brought home the postseason tournament title, defeating Powder Valley 37-27 in Baker City Saturday.

To avoid dead legs at the end of the season, Imbler head coach Barry Bowers has made keeping energy up and fatigue down driving principles of the team’s work and play. 

“We had a tough league, that’s about how it goes. Nothing came easy,” Bowers said. “So, really those were the things we focused on most — staying fresh and being in shape.” 

Imbler will need those fresh legs in the second round of the state playoffs when it hosts Prairie City at 6 p.m. tonight.

The visiting Panthers finished the season second in the High Desert League with a 5-1 recordand a 16-7 record overall.

Not dwelling on the past, Bowers is ready for his team’s opening state playoff game. We’re not gonna look past where we are now,” Bowers said. “We just focus on one game at a time, and not worry about anything until we take care of business. 

“That’s all we tried to do through the league, and that’s what we did in districts and that’s all we’re trying to do in the playoffs.” 

The old saying is defense wins championships. Bowers thinks the same thing. It was an area where the Panthers were once lacking, but Bowers now feels his team has significantly improved in that phase of the game.

“That was a big part of (our success). We just got better defensively as the season went on,” Bowers said.  

Everyone in Imbler’s rotation knows her role and fills it to the best of their ability. 

Senior point guard Malia Mills, junior guard Emma Bowers and freshman post Lexee Robertson lead the team in scoring. 

Seniors Ally Fullerton and Jessica McDaniel keep up the offensive pressure from the perimeter with their ability to shot outside, opening things up in the paint. Junior Katie Barry keeps the offense running smooth off the bench when a starter needs a break. Jacey Teeter’s role is to
do the little things. She rebounds well
and is a good defender. 

“[Teeter] is always talking, communicating, which is huge for us, we’ve always got to be communicating,” Bowers said. “Scoring is important, but there are so many other things that are important, too.” . 

“The bench players have stepped up, and filled those roles well. They come in and play very well, and keep the pressure on,” Bowers said.

With everything working in sync, Imbler is poise to make a run at the final eight. The Panthers are only three years removed from a state title when they knocked off 66-37. They would like to add another trophy to the case that includes two Class 1A titles, and four second-place trophies. 

Bowers appreciates the strength of the team’s experience. With five seniors and one junior, all who know from years of experience the importance of teamwork, the other players have learned they can rely on each other no matter who is on the court. 

The team is ready for the playoffs but Bowers is not ready for what will follow. 

“I love that we have a good young core coming back but it’s hard to look forward to something when we have five seniors leaving,” Bowers said. “They have been so special. I’m trying not to think of that part yet.”