After his name was the first announced during player introductions, Pine Bluffs standout senior Haize Fornstrom shook the hand of Wind River coach Justin Walker and pivoted back toward his bench. He looked down at a television camera and put his right index finger over slightly puckered lips, shushing the arena before the opening tip-off.
The Wind River faithful, of course, did not silence. Thirty-two game minutes later, however, they were limited to mutually respectful applause.
Billed as the third installment of an intense postseason trilogy, Saturday night’s plot twist-filled finale at the Casper Events Center gave Pine Bluffs the edge in a 73-68 victory for the 2018 Wyoming State High School Class 2A Boys Basketball Championship.
“It’s great,” first-year Pine Bluffs head coach Tyler Kimzey said. “I’ve been an assistant for six or seven years behind Will Gray, but this one is special.”
In the beginning, however, it was Fornstrom who was silenced. The standout senior was isolated by Wind River’s hectic defense and did not attempt a shot in the opening quarter.
While the Hornets’ four-year starting point guard was held scoreless in the opening frame, Tucker Norman and Michael Shain stepped up, combining for 13 of Pine Bluffs’ 17 first-quarter points.
Norman scored the first six points for the Hornets and Wind River countered every step of the way. The two teams went into the second quarter tied at 17-all.
Then, 58 seconds into the second, the cork popped. Fornstrom sank his first field-goal attempt, a dribble-drive floater, to put Pine Bluffs ahead 22-19. Three possessions later he sank a deep 3 with Jarrick Trumbull’s extended hand inches away. The player Kimzey described as “the motor” finished the quarter with nine points.
Shain and fellow sophomore Justus Golding combined for six 3’s in the first half. Along with two from Fornstrom, Pine Bluffs went 7 of 9 from behind the arc before halftime to lead 39-30. The lead never wavered in the second half.
The game’s landscape did dramatically shift with 2 minutes remaining in the half when Wind River senior Jayin Trumbull fell to the court grasping his left knee, wailing in pain. He was able to walk to the locker room under his own power.
He then returned for shootaround before the second half, bringing raucous cheers from the Wind River fans.
“Once he went out, we all knew he was going to come back in,” Fornstrom said. “Big players like that, you know, they can’t just sit out.”
Trumbull scored five points in 15 minutes in the second half but he wasn’t the same. He grimaced nearly constantly and couldn’t elevate as much. Twice he drove the lane only to lose the ball out of bounds attempting a jump-stop. The second time he fell hard, prompting a substitution that didn’t last a minute before he returned from the bench.
The Cougars were within six with 1:23 remaining but couldn’t get to the basket. Fornstrom hauled in the rebound and the Hornets iced the game from the line.
Shain finished with a game-high 20 points while Fornstrom had 18 points and 13 rebounds.
The celebration of Pine Bluffs’ second championship in three seasons continued two hours after its opening tip. The arena finally went silent as maintenance workers dismantled the court.