The resounding “Chiefs” chant that reverberated through the Casper Events Center at the beginning of Saturday night’s final faded into silence.
There were no loyal fans stomping their feet to the school’s battle cry as the Wyoming Indian crowd sat in disbelief.
Wind River’s big senior Taylor Tidzump had just driven the lane and scored a layup while getting fouled on the arm. The officials called it, and Tidzump approached the line, completing the and-1 to give the Cougars a 56-36 lead late in the third quarter.
The Chiefs were unable to recover or mount a comeback, regardless of how hard Buell Robinson tried.
Tidzump finished tied for a game-high with 27 points and 12 rebounds while teammate Jarick Trumble added 20 to offset Chiefs’ standout Robinson’s 27 points, lifting Wind River to a 77-59 win in the Wyoming State High School Class 2A Boys Basketball Championship.
“We just had a lot of confidence going into the game,” Tidzump said. “We just had a good feeling all week that it was going to turn out really good for us. We had no quit in us and that’s what helped us win.”
The senior gave Wind River its first lead off an and-1 late in the first quarter. Three minutes later sophomore Daylon Shoyo came off the bench to deliver a deep 3 that gave the Cougars a permanent lead midway through the second quarter.
By the time Shoyo’s shot went through the net it was obvious that it was a special night for those in white. Eighteen of Tidzump’s 27 points came in the first half, helping give Wind River a 13-point lead the Chiefs couldn’t recover from.
The shots didn’t fall for Wyoming Indian like they did for their Fremont County rival.
Wind River shot just under 52 percent (29 of 56) while the Chiefs were 25 of 70 (35 percent) from the field.
“If you can’t match (Wind River) shot for shot,” Wyoming Indian head coach Craig Ferris said, “it’s going to be a long night.”
It took an effort from the entire team to fire on all cylinders the way the Cougars did on Saturday night.
While Tidzump and the sophomore Trumble both scored 20-plus, it was the contributions that didn’t appear on the scoreboard that made the real difference.
“Daylon Shoyo did just a phenomenal job of being a floor general,” Wind River coach Justin Walker said. “Jerick, Jayin (Trumble) and Xavior (Oats) paced us defensively.
“You can’t pin that on one person. There’s absolutely no way, shape or form to do that.”
The Cougars overcame a potential let-down from Friday’s overtime win over previously undefeated Pine Bluffs to claim the second boys basketball state championship in school history. Now, for the second time in three years, Wind River is the champion.
As Tidzump stood, holding the trophy, he couldn’t find the words to summarize his feelings. The only thing he knew was his tightening grip on the state championship.
“It’s just so good,” he said. “I never want this feeling to stop.”