Defense had been not only the cornerstone but the identity of Big Horn throughout the season.
It was the Rams’ defense that ended Pine Bluffs’ hopes for an undefeated season in the East Regional final. That same defense held Rocky Mountain to only 37 points in the semifinal.
So it was only fitting when Wyoming Indian’s Amryn Brown looked to add a game-winning shot to her already incredible resume with 2.4 seconds remaining, she couldn’t get a shot off.
Brown’s heroics came up short in that drive as the horn sounded and Big Horn held on for a 50-49 victory in the Wyoming State High School Class 2A Girls Basketball Championship at the Casper Events Center.
“Three times in the last six games we’ve got stops at the end of games to win them,” Big Horn head coach Michael McGuire said. “That’s kind of what we’ve hung our hat on was our defensive end of the floor. I think it’s pretty fitting that we were able to get a stop there on that last possession.”
Senior guard Emily Blaney, who played every second of the game, went to the line with 4.6 seconds left to widen Big Horn’s lead but she missed the first and was called for stepping over the line on the second. She struggled from the line, shooting just 5 of 12 in the second half, though some of that may have been from fatigue.
She also sank both of her free throws with 55 seconds left to give the Rams the cushion they ultimately needed, just a three-point lead. She admitted that nerves played into her free-throw performance.
“A little bit,” Blaney said. “But I had faith in my team to finish it.”
Blaney’s free throws sank the hopes of the Chiefs’ Brown, who had one of the greatest second halves in state tournament history.
Brown scored 23 of her game-high 30 points in the second half, shooting 8-for-11 in the final 16 minutes.
“That’s a really good Wyoming Indian team,” McGuire said. “Amryn Brown is an unbelievable player and she had a great night.”
Her early struggles echoed her team’s, as the Big Horn defense held the streaky Chiefs to just 19 percent (4 of 21) shooting in the first half.
Big Horn took its first lead late in the first quarter on a 3 from senior Abby Buckingham at the top of the key that put the Rams ahead 7-6 and sparked an 8-0 run. From there the Rams kept Wyoming Indian at bay despite numerous scares down the stretch.
Some of those scares came when at the free-throw line, where neither team was safe. Big Horn was 16 of 32 from the stripe and Wyoming Indian was just 16 of 30.
In the end, the Rams were able to hold on for the school’s first girls basketball championship since 2009.
“We had faith in ourselves, I had faith in my team to get here,” Blaney said. “We had a lot of talent.”