CASPER – The Lingle-Fort Laramie girls’ basketball team capped off its season with a runner-up finish in the Class 2A state tournament on Saturday.
Not only was it an all SEWAC championship between the Lady Doggers and the Burns Lady Broncs, but it was also the top seed from the 2A East Regional Tournament pitted against the No. 4 seeded team from the regional tournament.
The teams split the regular season matchup with Burns winning in Lingle, and LFL winning in Burns.
“When we lost to them, we played a really bad game,” LFL coach Susan Bartel said. “It’s like playing your best friend. You know their moves and you know their strengths and weaknesses.”
In the rubber match, it was the Lady Broncs getting it done on the neutral site, 48-36.
It took nearly six minutes for the Lady Doggers to get on the scoreboard when freshman Skyla Wunder sank the first two points for LFL, and it was the start of a 22-6 spurt by Lingle.
The run was capped by an Ashlee Hattan 3-pointer to give the Lady Doggers a 22-10 lead.
However, the next 11 points went to the Lady Broncs, who drew within one at 22-21 in the opening moments of the third quarter.
“We came out in the second half and had difficulty getting shots to fall,” Bartel said. “Rebounding, we did okay. Natalie still had a ton of rebounds. If we had gotten our shots to fall, it would have been a different story.”
Senior Baylee Skinner hit her second 3-pointer of the game with 6:09 left in the third to slow the Burns run.
For the remainder of the quarter, Lingle kept Burns at bay, holding a slim 31-30 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Broncs opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer to take their first lead since the first quarter, and it was a lead which Burns never surrendered for the rest of the game.
“Some of the nerves got in the way, and (Burns) played really good defense against us,” Bartel said. “It obviously didn’t go the way we had hoped.”
Following the Burns’ 3-pointer, Lingle used a timeout, but in the end, Burns was able to keep the momentum on its side and stretch the lead to double digits in the closing moments of the game.
The Lady Doggers forced Burns to turn the ball over 38 times.
“We typically get a lot of turnovers when we press, but our problem, we couldn’t get those converted to points,” Bartel said.
LFL turned those turnovers into only 25 points, and Lingle was dominated on the glass, being outrebounded 62-30.
LFL was led by freshman Jordynn Speckner with 10 points, while junior Natalie Speckner grabbed a team-high 14 rebounds. Hattan had seven points, while Skinner and Wunder had six points each.
For the game, Lingle shot 21.6%, including 15% in the second half, while Burns shot 41.2% for the game, including 46.7% in the second half.
Leading into the championship game, LFL knocked off the Shoshoni Lady Blue and the Tongue River Lady Eagles to reach their first state championship game since 2014.
On Thursday, the Lady Doggers defeated Shoshoni 50-29.
LFL held a 19-10 lead after one, extending it to 36-19 by halftime.
The pace of the scoring in the second half slowed as Lingle outscored the Lady Blue 14-10 to pull away for the 21-point victory.
Natalie Speckner tallied her fourth double-double of the postseason with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Hattan had seven points, while Wunder chipped in six.
The Lady Doggers shot 25.7% for the game, including 18.2% in the second half.
In the semifinal round, Lingle jumped out to an 8-2 lead but had to hold on for a 57-52 win over the Tongue River Lady Eagles.
“It was a little scary. I’m not going to lie,” Bartel said. “They dug deep and pulled it out in the fourth quarter.”
With a six-point advantage, Tongue River countered with a 9-0 run to take an 11-10 lead.
The Lady Eagle lead reached as many as six before Wunder slowed the run.
Natalie Speckner followed up with a 3-pointer, and freshman Avary Rising and Hattan also added points to tie the game at 18 heading into half.
Natalie Speckner put her team back in front in the opening seconds of the third quarter, and the junior followed it up with a 3-pointer.
Tongue River had another run in them, eventually regaining the lead 33-28 with under a minute and a half in the third quarter.
However, a late 3-pointer by Hattan put the Lady Doggers back in front 35-33 with eight minutes to play.
It was the final lead change of the game.
Lingle’s lead topped out at 10 in the closing moments of the game.
LFL forced 25 turnovers and turned it into 26 points.
“It’s our bread and butter,” Bartel said of the full-court press. “It’s what brings the energy of the team up, and it creates our offensive opportunities.”
Natalie Speckner finished with another double-double with 26 points and 13 rebounds, while Hattan had 12 points.
“They want this so bad. It’s all heart,” Bartel said. “Natalie has been tremendous the whole postseason. Ashlee was shooting lights out today. When we needed them, they came through.”
The win set the stage for the rematch and ultimate season-ending loss to Burns in the championship game.
“I’m proud of my girls for how far they came,” Bartel said. “I did tell the girls how proud of them I was for playing hard and never giving up the entire season. Even in the championship game, when things weren’t falling, they didn’t give up.”
The Lady Doggers finished the season with a 20-8 record.