By his father/head coach's own admission, Trey Hladky loves the big stage. The Gillette senior had played just once on Wyoming's biggest high school basketball platform, but the Camels came up short of a title in his freshman season.
Through upsets and missteps in the semifinals the following two years, the opportunity for redemption eluded him. If given the chance, he would not squander a final attempt at gold.
Having survived a near catastrophic upset in the quarterfinals, the Camels advanced to the 2018 Wyoming State High School Class 4A Boys Basketball Championship game on Saturday night at the Casper Events Center. Hladky took center stage. Sparked by a personal 7-0 run halfway through the second quarter, he netted a tournament-high 43 points and completed a legacy that will forever last in Campbell County and state tournament history.
"He went out the way he should have," Gillette head coach Bubba Hladky said. "A lot of hours spent in the gym for that young man. He's had some tough goes but he just stayed the course and found a way to get it done."
He played in all but 43 seconds of Gillette's 71-61 victory Saturday. A step-back jumper a minute into the first quarter opened the senior's performance and an acrobatic double-clutch layup with 51 seconds left served as his closing number.
"It was just one of those nights when everything was falling," he said.
Recently named the first two-time Wyoming Gatorade Player of the Year since former Camel Cody Kelley (2013-14), Hladky's showmanship on the largest stage the state has to offer will go down in Gillette lore.
In a college commitment-style tweet last spring he announced that he would stay a Camel. As three of his former teammates left for the new program on the south side of town, he doubled down. He thought of his father and what it would be like not playing for him. He didn't want that.
"He did everything for me growing up," Trey Hladky said. "I had a lot of my friends go (to Thunder Basin) so it was tough. My dad even told me that he would stop coaching so that we could be together over there but I told him we were going to stick this out and we were going to finish it."
While Hladky attempted 25 of the Camels' 46 shots on Saturday, he also relied on his teammates to knock down their own shots in the second half. He felt the offense stall in the second quarter so he took over with a run of his own. On the rare occasion that Sheridan was able to stop him, Hladky kicked out to either Dawson Miessler or Shane Belt. Both finished with nine points and only two missed field goals.
Both of them also decided to return to the Camels this season and were rewarded for it. While their contributions may have paled in comparison to Hladky's stunning stat line, their influence on the court as disrupters had much more of an impact than the 16 forced turnovers on the box score.
"He knew that he needed those guys and those guys stepped up big all weekend for us," Bubba Hladky said. "He found guys open and got them good looks and the shooters hit their shots."
Added Trey: "I play a lot to my teammates, it's not all just about scoring. I try to set them up so when (opponents) take them away it makes it hard for all of us."
Sheridan's mission was to make the senior alone beat them. Just like he did three times earlier this season, Hladky accomplished that to win his only high school state championship in his final opportunity.
Years spent in gymnasiums brought Hladky's career to a culmination. Fittingly enough, at the final whistle he had the ball in his hands. After the final horn sounded he punted it into the rafters of the Casper Events Center. He even practiced that earlier in the week.
Imagining a successful end to the weekend, exactly like the one he got on Saturday, he booted the ball away after a 3-second countdown.
"Camels win!" he shouted.