By Lukas Eggen Ely Times Staff Writer

After the first half, the White Pine High girls’ basketball team seemed like it was headed toward another close clash with Lincoln County.

This time, a trip to the State title game was on the line.

“We felt very confident going into the game,” head coach Krystal Smith said. “We had watched game film on them, talked about defensive strategy and how we would handle their different presses. We knew we had to play well, and we expected ourselves to play well. We made sure that we didn’t underestimate them or look past them.”

But the Ladycats scored just three points in the third quarter and six in the fourth as White Pine fell 49-32 in the first round of the State Championships.

“We were simply unable to score,” Smith said. “I’ve never seen us be so unable to put the ball in the hole. We had decent looks, but we couldn’t buy a basket.”

Trailing by one at the half, White Pine went four-of-26 from the field in the second half.

The result was the Ladycats’ first loss to Lincoln County this year. Lincoln County lost to Pershing County in the championship game.

“(I told them) that my heart broke for them,” Smith said. “They deserved a better outcome and that the world doesn’t always seem fair but we become better people from the trials of adversity that we face.”

The loss was the team’s final game to a season that saw numerous highlights, including winning at Lowry for the first time in three years, Smith said. And a mix of veterans and youth helped White Pine advance to the State Tournament.

“We have young kids who rose to the occasion and we had veteran seniors who were great leaders,” Smith said. “We have eight girls who came together as a team and worked extremely hard day in and day out to be the best basketball team they could be.”

White Pine will have to replace a group of seniors who will be leaving big shoes to fill.

“Bailey (Moore) and Haidn’s (Windous) results on the basketball court speak volumes for how hard they work,” Smith said. “We met early in the summer and talked about program goals, their roles, and what they wanted from their senior year. We talked about taking positives from past seasons and blending them with new ideas. They were the coaches on the court and in the locker room. They took our younger girls under their wings and not only made them better basketball players, but better people. They were the first group of girls I coached in basketball when I first moved here and they’re my first group of girls to graduate while being the head coach. They’ll always have special place in my heart. They will be missed greatly.”

While replacing some of White Pine’s top scorers and the team’s leading rebounder won’t be easy, the Ladycats will be looking to make a return trip to State with a different result.

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