The maiden voyage for Natrona County’s new gym had long set sail by the time Fillies head coach Doug Diehl was able to breathe.
Natrona County opened its season against defending Class 3A champion Star Valley. The only notable returner for the Braves was junior Olivia Murr.
It was just the second time in 11 years that the Fillies played a Class 3A team. And that was because of what Diehl called “a no-win situation.”
Star Valley took a four-point lead into halftime but a second-half burst from Natrona County powered the home team to a 66-56 win in the first varsity game played at the new Natrona County gym.
“We got into immediate foul trouble and once we were there we lost all rhythm,” Diehl said. “A credit to the bench that just kept us in it.”
The Fillies were ultimately powered by senior Kristy Dick, who scored a game-high 22, and sophomore Kate Robertson, who managed a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
“Kate Robertson was the one person that I felt grew,” Diehl said. “She had a double-double, she kicked butt, was solid. She still has things to work on but she had a great game.”
Kelly Walsh opened the tournament on its home court with a come-from-behind 57-45 win against Class 3A Riverton.
The Lady Trojans struggled to hit open jumpers in the first quarter and fell into a small deficit. While the introduction of a full-court press in the second quarter forced the Wolverines into distress, it remained a three-point game going into the break.
Halftime adjustments sparked Kelly Walsh to increase the half-court defensive pressure, which Riverton did not handle. Kelly Walsh outscored Riverton 38-23 in the second half on the offensive production of senior Madison Vinich and the rebounding of sophomore Corin Carruth. The Wolverines offense was ran through senior guard Jordan Lewis, who provided most of her team’s scoring.
Kelly Walsh later improved to 2-0 in the young season by pulling away from Jackson with an easy 74-44.
Returning state qualifier Rock Springs struggled early against Sheridan in a mid-afternoon, inter-conference matchup at Kelly Walsh High School. The Tigers, who did lose their top three contributors from last season, fell behind early due to turnovers and a quick transition offense from the Broncs.
“When we were transitioning back, two of our girls were guarding one player and leaving one out open,” Rock Springs head coach Ramiro Candelaria said. “It was lack of communication. Second half we adjusted really well, put our press back on and that kind of changed the tone of the game.”
The Tigers started building confidence at the end of the second quarter that carried into the second half. A two-point deficit turned into a one-point lead, that morphed into a 54-42 win.
Candelaria said after the game that his team’s conditioning needs to improve in order for the Tigers to operate the way he believes will make them the most successful. Luckily, he said, Sheridan suffered from the same lack of conditioning.
While it was just the first game of the year, there were a lot of positives for both teams. Sheridan showed it can be successful with its speedy offense and offset its lack of size. Rock Springs had contributions from starters and bench alike.
“We’ve got Ky Buell, she stepped up,” Candelaria said. “Sarye Thomas, she stepped up, Taylor Jenkins played amazing defense, Selana (Cudney) gave us some amazing minutes. I’m just happy all the way through.”
Thomas had a game-high 16 points, 11 of which came in the second half. Buell added 12 and Cudney had eight for Rock Springs. Senior Kailee Ingalls led Sheridan with eight.
Evanston opened its season with a big win at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym. The Red Devils were able to hold on to a big 62-58 victory over Laramie.
With returning stars like Lexi Pulley and Darcey Alvarez, the Lady Plainsmen were favored going into the matchup with the West Conference opponent. But Evanston answered on the strength of seniors Hailey Barker and Megan Fisher.