Even as Rylee Burmester rubbed at her temples and brushed the tears from her cheeks, she still struggled to find the right words.
For nearly 32 minutes she and her Star Valley teammates recreated last year’s state championship loss against Worland, allowing the Warriors to rally and tie it with 81 seconds remaining.
But Savannah Lucero and the Braves abandoned history after that.
Lucero drove the baseline and pulled up under the basket, drawing a foul on her shot with 4.8 seconds remaining and the score tied in the Wyoming State High School Class 3A Girls Basketball Championship game.
She drained the first, bringing the Star Valley fans on hand at the Casper Events Center off their feet.
Lucero’s free throw gave the Braves a 44-43 lead and Star Valley held on after her second free throw missed to win the Class 3A girls championship.
The senior struggled, as did the rest of the Braves, but came through when it mattered most. Lucero was 2 of 10 from the field, making only a pair of 3’s, and 1 of 5 from the free-throw line. Of her seven points, that one was the biggest.
Burmester led the Braves with 11 points while an unlikely hero added 10 crucial points.
Sophomore Olivia Muir came off the bench in the first quarter and fired on all cylinders. She ended the first half 5 of 6 from the floor with 10 points and four rebounds in under eight minutes of play to give Star Valley a lead in the second quarter that got as big as nine points.
Muir set the tone before five turnovers in a 4-minute stretch allowed Worland to tie the game on a 3 from Bailey Gibbons. However, the Warriors couldn’t seize a lead and left the door open for Star Valley.
Worland had a chance to win but couldn’t get a shot off near mid-court as the buzzer sounded, signaling the Braves’ bench to rush their teammates on the court.
Emotionally, the win validated the upset of the same two-loss team that defeated the Braves in the championship last year.
Despite their physical readiness, the Braves expressed a surreal atmosphere after the game. Nearly everyone was in tears, holding up their new trophy at the podium while raising their one index fingers.
Even holding the trophy didn’t seem real.
“I’m beyond shocked,” Burmester said.
Muir walked around with the trophy, holding it out and trying to pass it along to another teammate with an overwhelmed look in her eyes.
“I don’t know what to do with this,” she said to a friend.
She, and the Braves, can take it back to Afton now and put it next to that 2013 trophy.