CLEARMONT — The Arvada-Clearmont High School girls basketball team started fast and finished strong Friday to claim a spot in the state championship game. The top-seeded Lady Panthers defeated No. 2-seeded St. Stephens 52-41 at Natrona County High School and will play fellow top-seed Cokeville in the title game Saturday at 6:30 p.m. inside the Casper Events Center.
AC trailed the Lady Eagles 39-34 heading into the fourth quarter. The Lady Panthers had no second-half offense to speak of, only mustering a single point in the third period.
But AC’s defense kept it within striking distance and it clamped down even harder in the game’s final eight minutes. St. Stephens only managed one field goal in the fourth frame, while the Lady Panthers found their offensive footing in a big way.
AC tallied the first 12 points of the fourth quarter, which gave it a 46-39 advantage. The Lady Panthers never looked back.
McKenna Auzqui led the way for AC with 23 points and eight rebounds. Kristin Klaahsen added 13 points and three assists, while Madison Troll chipped in nine points and 10 rebounds.
The Lady Panthers shot 33 percent (16 of 48) from the floor, and the Lady Eagles connected on 27 percent (18 of 66) of their field-goal attempts.
AC began the game on a torrid pace, leading 15-2 and forcing St. Stephens to burn two early time outs. The Lady Panthers laid claim to a 20-9 lead at the end of the first quarter and held on for a 33-32 halftime edge.
AC will look to win its second state championship in school history and first since 2007 Saturday.