DAYTON — After a few years of missing the state tournament, the Tongue River High School girls basketball team aims to return to some of its previous successes under new leadership.
The Lady Eagles have won nine state titles in program history, the most recent coming in back-to-back years in 2013 and 2014. Head coach Ryan Alley hopes to make the team a formidable opponent again.
Alley was an assistant coach for the Lady Eagles from 2005-07 and helped the team win three consecutive state championships.
“I know what TR basketball programs can be, so I’m just working to get that back to where it needs to be,” Alley said. “… In order to build this program — and my goal is to build a sustainable program over a period of time — you’ve gotta have that stability.”
After a few coaching changes in recent years, Alley — who previously spent 10 years as the Big Horn boys basketball coach — hopes to be with the program for the long haul. He said early practices focused on installing a few different offensive and defensive schemes and building team culture and expectations.
Alley said the team has quality speed, so the Lady Eagles should have good perimeter defense and transition offense. It will take some time to figure out the best lineups for the young group, though.
“We’re going to have to get experience at that high level,” Alley said.
The Lady Eagles lost six seniors from last year’s squad, including All-Conference player Jenna Keller, so junior Kalie Bocek and senior Holly Hutchinson are the only two players with significant varsity experience.
The players like the fluidity of the sport and said it applies off the court, where they have to constantly adapt to situations.
“It’s important for life,” Hutchinson said. “So many things happen at once and you can’t just dwell on a mistake … You have to be able to brush it off and move on to the next play and get it back.”
The team motto this year is “prove them wrong,” something Hutchinson came up with and the team says after every practice.
Hutchinson said the phrase is about people not expecting much from TR in recent years. The Lady Eagles aim to subvert those expectations and make a push for the state tournament again.
Both players said practice has gone well so far.
“I was unsure because we lost so many kids from last year, but seeing everyone’s efforts this summer and in practice is really reassuring that we’re going to be OK this year,” Hutchinson said.
The young team will take some time to find its groove, but the Lady Eagles hope to show their strengths and prove people wrong.
Head coach: Ryan Alley
Last season’s record: 5-17
Last season’s conference record: 3-7
Key contributors: Kalie Bocek, Holly Hutchinson, Carleigh Reish
Jan. 11 at Wright
Jan. 12 vs. Big Horn
Jan. 18 vs. Greybull
Jan. 19 at Riverside
Jan. 25 vs. Rocky Mountain
Jan. 26 at Moorcroft
Jan. 31 at Big Horn
Feb. 1 vs. Sundance
Feb. 8 at Greybull
Feb. 9 vs. Riverside
Feb. 15 at Rocky Mountain
Feb. 16 vs. Shoshoni
Feb. 21-23 at Regionals (Riverton)
Feb. 28-March 2 at State (Casper)