Dion Ealy was in the right place at the right time Saturday. As a result, Kaycee won its first Wyoming State High School Class 1A Boys Basketball Championship since 1999.
Ealy scored on a put-back with less than 1 second to play to lift the Buckaroos to a 57-56 victory over four-time defending state champion Burlington at the Casper Events Center.
“I got the board and put it back up,” Ealy said. “It was just an amazing feeling after that.
“I put the shot up and the horn went off and I just looked around in disbelief.”
Ealy’s game-winner capped a wild finish that featured four lead changes in the last 25 seconds.
Burlington junior Dontae Garza, who finished with a game-high 27 points, had seemingly given the Huskies the win with a short baseline jumper with 7 seconds on the clock.
But that proved to be more than enough time for Kaycee, which got the ball ahead to guard Danny Ramirez. When Ramirez’s contested layup rolled off the rim Ealy was there to beat the buzzer.
“I knew there wasn’t a lot of time,” said Kaycee senior Mark Largent, who had a courtside seat for the game-winner after fouling out with 29.4 seconds to play. “Dion got that rebound and he didn’t let the pressure get to him.”
Largent scored on a drive to give Kaycee a 53-49 advantage and the momentum, but Garza and the Huskies took it right back.
Garza made two free throws to make it a two-point game. He then gave Burlington the lead when teammate Dallin Davidson forced a turnover and Garza finished an old-fashioned three-point play for a 54-53 lead with 25.4 seconds remaining.
Ealy answered with two free throws for a 55-54 Kaycee lead. All of which set up the final frantic seconds.
The game was a back-and-forth battle throughout — there were 15 lead changes and nine ties — with Kaycee taking the largest lead of the game at 31-24 on Danny Ramirez’s layup to start the second half.
But Burlington responded with an 11-2 run for a 35-33 advantage. Kaycee answered with a 9-2 burst capped by Nicholas Aragon’s 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter for a 42-37 lead. Then it was Burlington’s turn as the Huskies grabbed a 44-42 lead with 5:42 to play.
Kaycee, which has won the past three Class 1A/6-man state football championships, can now add some more hardware to its trophy case.
“We weren’t here just to play in the state championship game,” Largent said. “We got the monkey off our back by making it past the semifinals, but we wanted more.”
Thanks to Ealy, the Buckaroos got it.