Memories of Lady Panther basketball

Outlook staff writer
Lady Panthers now From left are Shelby McMillen, MacKinzie Verke, Shelby Branstetter, Teyha Ray, Shelby Kluth and Bethany VanDoren.
Lady Panthers back in the day. In the back row from the left are Shelby Kluth, Teyha Ray and Shelby Branstetter. In the front row from the left are Bethany VanDoren, Mackinzie Verke and Shelby McMillen.

The 2016-17 senior Lady Panthers have been playing together since the fifth grade.
Playing basketball together since that young age has given the girls an effortless-organic chemistry that could have only been achieved through time spent together.
Mackenzie Verke, Shelby Branstetter, Tehya Ray, Shelby Kluth, Bethany Van Doren and Shebly McMillen will all graduate this year.
The girls’ last season came to an abrupt end a few weeks ago when they didn’t make it to the State tourney. It was an outcome they all wish they could have changed, but they know there are more important things than winning.
The girls can now reflect on the journey they traveled, what it took to make it this far and how it feels to be so close to graduating high school.
Basketball tourneys together, long bus trips, nights at each other’s houses where they made some of their favorite memories and waxing nostalgic about special carousal rides in Missoula, occupy some of the little time they have left together.
The girls had an amazing basketball life together and though it didn’t end the way they wanted they are looking forward to the amazing journey ahead of them. Not only are these girls athletes, students, teammates and friends, but each one is also about to graduate high school and step into the real world.
When they sit down together the group is comfortable and at ease. They effortlessly endure bouts of silence followed by funny commentary. They switch subjects in a matter of seconds, going from boys, to basketball, to college and stories about how weird they looked when they were younger.
They have an endless stream of inside jokes based on their past that only they can fathom. It’s those moments that they will cherish in the future.
They know each other well they can finish each other’s stories and relay verbatim conversations related to embarrassing moments in class, relationships, life and family.
Finishing their last year together under the guidance of Michele Gauthier and Mark Rathbun seemed more like fate than anything. Coach Gauthier had her first year with these girls who she has also seen mature and grow up together.
“These seniors are extremely smart, funny and talented,” said Gauthier. “All six are off to college next fall in different places. I am excited to see what their futures hold and I wish them all the luck in the world. I know they will do great things.”
The girls praised their coaching staff and each said how special their last season was. They credit the coaching staff for helping them regain a sense of fun and the knowledge that playing isn’t just about winning.
“Michelle had no negativity,” said Ray. “She taught us how to love each other more.”
Each of the seniors is excited about their own future, but they are cheering on their former teammates, as well.


Upcoming Events

Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Tuesdays, Noon, Beartooth Grill, 305 1st Ave. S.
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Fourth Tuesdays, 7 p.m., Eagles Hall, 313 W. Main, 628-4503
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
10 a.m., Laurel Public Library, 720 West Third Street, Laurel, 628-4961
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., check for more info. Find them on Facebook . Email them to find out meeting time and to join: The club will have a meeting or volunteer activity. Meeting location is Sid's East Side Bar & Grill on first and third Wednesdays of each month. Members and guests eat free.  Volunteer activity on the second Wednesday of each month. Check their facebook page for updates.  Every fourth Wednesday is for a club social activity. 
Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Tuesdays, Noon, Beartooth Grill, 305 1st Ave. S.
Wednesday, July 31, 2019
10 a.m., Laurel Public Library, 720 West Third Street, Laurel, 628-4961


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