The Casper College women’s basketball team earned the right to host the NJCAA Region IX Tournament, which forced the first day of the 2018 Wyoming State High School Class 4A Basketball Championships to Kelly Walsh High School.
Perhaps it was for the best as capacity at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym would have been tested. The calendar brought the March, the home Trojans brought the madness on Thursday.
Kelly Walsh head coach Randy Roden extended his arms after Ross Padilla’s body soared through the air to score a tip-in rebound. That basket put Kelly Walsh ahead by 11 with 4 minutes remaining. The typically stone-faced Trojans coach couldn’t contain his smile that time.
“Yeah, I think I saw it too,” Kelly Walsh junior Davion McAdam said.
The defending state champion Kelly Walsh Trojans lost in December to Cheyenne East by 15 on their home court. That same Trojan team, still with no seniors, upset the No. 1 seed from the East Conference on Thursday afternoon, 53-41.
Helping the Trojans pull off the previously unthinkable was momentum. Lane Fanto sank a crucial 3 just before the first-quarter buzzer to give the Trojans a 16-12 lead. Sage Coventry hit a wide-open 3 just before halftime to take a vital 25-18 lead into the break. Whenever the Trojans needed a momentum-sealing, confidence-assuring bucket they got it. The Trojan defense wouldn’t allow it to happen for East.
“If you’ve been following us this year you’ll see that we’re a team that competes with everybody but we don’t finish out our games a lot of the time,” McAdam said. “So this was an emphasis of going into halftime saying we’ve got to finish and just playing our hearts out.”
McAdam led Kelly Walsh, much like he has all season, with a game-high 15 points and eight rebounds.
Kelly Walsh’s leading scorer knows there’s reason for belief. If these Trojans can go into state 10-13 and decisively knock off 18-8 East while making Roden smile, they can do anything.
“Everybody has been doubting us this year,” McAdam said. “To prove some of the doubters wrong is great but all I can say is that we’re not done yet.”
The Trojans have an opportunity to make a major impression on Friday against Sheridan, who held firm in the fourth quarter after some sluggish play to beat Rock Springs, 73-61.
The Broncs jockeyed with Gillette for the top of the conference until two losses to East took them out of the mix. They have since recovered and once again look like a championship contender.
“We just needed to stay the course,” Sheridan senior Blayne Baker said. “Every day in practice we just needed to focus on ourselves, not the rankings, not the standings. Even when we were up at No. 1, nobody cared. Every day in practice helped us to get better and get back here to the state tournament.”
Baker finished with 12 points and five rebounds in under 20 minutes of play against Rock Springs. Teammate Tristan Bower tied a game-high 20 points while junior Parker Christensen had 15 points and 19 rebounds.
One of the main defensive goals for the Broncs was stopping Tigers’ star freshman Graedyn Buell. Buell torched the Broncs in their Dec. 7 meeting to open the season. He tied Bower’s 20 points but was also just 7 of 27 (5 of 19 from 3). Buell started 1 of 12 from the field in the first half.
The two late semifinals — Gillette versus Natrona County and Evanston against Cheyenne Central — were completed after press deadlines.