When the Douglas girls varsity basketball team knew they would be playing at the Energy Classic Invitational in Gillette Dec. 27-29, a tournament of national recognition, they wanted to push the junior varsity girls in practice.

After all, it was their turn to step up to the challenge and face the same varsity opponents they face on a weekly basis. And the JV Lady Cats were more than ready for the challenge.

“We worked hard in practice the week before,” junior Abby Hoopman said. “The varsity girls came in and pushed us, they wanted us to take advantage of our opportunity.”

For the Lady Cats, playing on their home floor, and having their names announced, was both an exciting experience and a learning one.

They came out in the opener on Friday against Big Piney and seized the opportunity. Douglas jumped out to an astonishing 25-0 lead and never looked back, dominating the Lady Punchers in a 57-6 win to open the Douglas Classic.

“They came out, stepped up and played really well,” head coach Kellen Palmer said. “It was exciting for them to have their names announced and face the same girls that our varsity team plays.”

In their night cap on Friday, Douglas welcomed Lander to the floor and for the second time in 12 hours, took care of business. Led by freshman Allison Olsen and senior Britney Porter, the Lady Cats took down the Lady Tigers 50-38.

It was an overall team effort for Douglas, and communication was at the heart of it.

“We talked to each other and did everything out there as a team,” Hoopman said. “It was a good environment for us to be in and a great learning experience.”

In their third game of the Classic on Saturday, Douglas jumped out to another early lead on Lovell and ran away with it, winning 54-25. And in the weekend finale, the seizing of the opportunity culminated in their best performance of the season thus far. The Lady Cats took an early lead, and with smart play on both offense and defense, beat Burns 61-38.

For the JV girls, many varsity minutes will be played in their future, if not this season, and this past weekend was an experience that will especially help them get there.

After all, going into practice every day with the reigning state champions, they know they’re learning from the best and they wouldn’t want it any other way.

“As a team we know how good they are,” Hoopman said. “We love that. We work really hard because we hope to be like them.

“They know they can play with the best,” Palmer added about his players. “They play against one of the best 3A teams every day. They’re definitely reminded of it.”

Soon, Hoopman, Olsen, Porter and the rest of the Lady Cats will be the ones hearing their names announced routinely and will hopefully one day become the girls they are currently aspiring to be.

For now, the opportunity was theirs and they more than seized it. They’ll now enjoy the break before returning to the court in the new year, ready to take on their next challenge.

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