Lady Doggers earn top seed for state

Courtesy photo/Lisa Shaw Lingle-Fort Laramie junior Natalie Speckner chases down a rebound in the 2A East Regional championship game on Saturday. Speckner had three double-doubles to lead the Lady Doggers to a No. 1 seed.

SUNDANCE – The Lingle-Fort Laramie High School girls’ basketball team qualified for state at the top seed from the 2A East Regional Tournament.

The Lady Doggers ran the tables at regionals, picking up wins over Big Horn, Burns and Sundance en route to the team’s first regional title since 2016-17 season and the first in school history at the 2A level.

Despite some travel issues leading the team to arrive 48 hours early, the Lady Doggers were able to stay focused on the job at hand. Between a virtual snow day on Wednesday keeping the players busy all day, along with a light practice at a local community center, LFL went in excited and ready to play.

“The girls were really excited to be there and really wanted it,” coach Susan Bartel said. “They didn’t stop even when we were down.”

Lingle opened postseason play with the same way they began the 2022-23 season – with a win over Big Horn.

LFL led 15-11 after a quarter, but it was the middle two quarters which propelled the Lady Doggers to a 65-35 victory.

“We killed it, draining 3 after 3 after 3,” Bartel said. “Everyone was feeling great. Coming out of that game, we were playing really well and excited.”

In all, Lingle drained 12 3-pointers in the win.

Lingle held Big Horn to three points in the second quarter, while they took a 27-14 lead into halftime.

In the third quarter, the Lady Doggers exploded for 26 points in the third quarter, while limiting the Lady Rams to 10 more points.

Junior Natalie Speckner led LFL with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while senior Ashlee Hattan had 14 points. Freshman Skyla Wunder tossed in 11.

In the semifinal round, the Lady Doggers were setup with a rubber match against Burns.

“Coming into the next game, they had beat us once, and we had beaten them once,” Bartel said. “It was going to be a fight. It was a fight. It was high energy, high emotions. The girls battled. It was a team we had beaten, and we knew we could beat. We just had to do our thing.”

In the end, LFL defeated the Burns Lady Broncs 50-34.

LFL trailed the entire first half as Burns led 12-8 after one and 16-14 at the half.

In the second half, Lingle came out the locker room and poured in 23 points in the third quarter, taking a 37-28 lead going into the final quarter.

The Lady Dogger lead continued to grow throughout the four en route to the 16-point victory and the regional championship game.

Speckner tallied her second double-double of the weekend with 12 points and 17 rebounds. Wunder recorded a team-high 17 points to go along with eight rebounds and six steals.

In the championship game, the Lady Doggers used a big fourth quarter to propel them to a 41-36 victory over the regional tournament host Sundance Lady Bulldogs

Lingle led 8-4 after one, but the second quarter belonged to Sundance.

The Lady Bulldogs held LFL to only two points to take a 18-10 lead into halftime.

The Lady Doggers cut the deficit to six heading into the final quarter.

Throughout the final eight minutes of the game, Lingle chipped away at the lead, and finally with under two minutes left in the contest, regained the lead.

“Thankfully, they came through with the heart, really. They willed us to win,” Bartel said. “It was shear determination. I’m really proud of the effort and the teamwork.”

LFL outscored Sundance 19-8 in the final quarter to score the come-from-behind victory and the top seed at this weekend’s state tournament.

Speckner had her third double-double of the weekend with 14 points and 13 rebounds, to go along with five assists and seven steals. 

“Natalie is underappreciated in the basketball world,” Bartel said. “She is huge out there for us. The Burns game, she had 17 rebounds. She’s not super tall, but it was determination that she was going to get them. Those wins don’t happen without Natalie going after the boards.”

Hattan added 10 points, while Wunder had seven points and seven rebounds.

Heading into the state tournament as the top seed, anything short of reaching the state championship game would be a disappointment for the Lady Doggers.

“We’re going to try to make it all the way to the championship game and win it,” Bartel said.

Lingle opened play on Thursday evening against Shoshoni. With a win, they would play the winner of Wyoming Indian and Tongue River at 6 p.m. at the Ford Wyoming Center, but with a loss, the Lady Doggers would face the loser at 10:30 a.m.