Tip-off for the 2018-19 basketball season season is just hours away. Like most seasons, this one begins with a plethora of invitationals and tournaments for teams to cut their teeth on before the moratorium and New Year’s break.
Every team that has spent the past three weeks inside a gym at practice takes to the court to open their season with a multitude of games this weekend. Gillette, Riverton, Casper, Burns, Buffalo, Hanna, Glenrock, Mountain View, Encampment, Lyman and Upton all host a swath of games this weekend alone. Teams from across the state, and across classifications, will compete against each other.
While a season’s outlook cannot be drawn from the opening weekend, that doesn’t mean there aren’t players, teams and interesting matchups. So here’s an overview of the most interesting games across each tournament this weekend.
There are two considerably interesting games the first day. First, there’s Cody opening against Laramie (at Natrona County, 1:30 p.m., Thursday). Laramie returns leading scorer/rebounder Jennifer Aadland (13.8 points, 9.4 rebounds) to lead the charge while Cody has Encampment transfer and future Wyoming Cowgirl Paige Powell (12.7 points, 13.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.8 steals, 3.8 blocks with Tigers). Later in the day Kelly Walsh tips off its season against Star Valley (at Kelly Walsh, 6 p.m., Thursday). The two met in the state volleyball tournament and return many of the same athletes for this one.
Closing down the action the following night is an alluring game between Evanston and Natrona County (at Natrona County, 7:30 p.m., Friday). Both teams graduated their most reliable scorers and defenders and will likely undergo a new look this season. The final day has a similar game as Sheridan plays Rock Springs (at Kelly Walsh, 3 p.m., Saturday). While Sheridan returns some considerable athleticism, the Tigers will be playing without their go-to weapon from a year ago.
Bill Strannigan Invite
Same teams as the Casper Invite, only it’s all boys. Two games stand apart on the opening day. First, Evanston plays Sheridan (at Central Wyoming College, 6 p.m., Thursday) in a game between semi-rebuilding teams. The Red Devils lose co-players of the year as the bench depth steps into the spotlight and the Broncs’ role players from last season take center stage. There’s also Natrona County against Riverton (at Riverton High, 7:30 p.m., Thursday), both of which are comprised of a talented nucleus that can be built upon.
The second day starts with an interesting game between Green River and Cody (at Riverton High, 6 p.m., Friday). Both will be without top producers from a season ago but could transform into tournament threats later in the season. On the final day that same Evanston team plays Kelly Walsh (at Riverton High, 1:30 p.m., Saturday). The Trojans return most of the team that made a semifinal run a year ago.
Gillette Re-Max Tourney
In what is predominantly an inter-state tournament, it still features some fun games. Cheyenne Central (boys only), Gillette and Thunder Basin play teams from Colorado, South Dakota and Nebraska. Central’s boys have high aspirations while Gillette’s lose a lot from last year’s championship and Thunder Basin’s could emerge into a contender. On the girls side, it’s just Thunder Basin and Gillette, and the Camels started their title run from a year ago this same way. Of course, the Bolts will take on a new, more dynamic look this season.
Burns Winter Classic
The most intriguing games of the first day are both Wyoming Indian-Pine Bluffs games (girls, 7 p.m., Thursday; boys, 8:30 p.m., Thursday). All four teams are perennial contenders and all four could make a run at the 2A championship game. Tucker Norman and Michael Shain will battle the Chiefs’ duo of Bradford Brown and Jerry McGill almost immediately after the Hornets’ Kammie Ragsdale squares off against Alexandria Trosper.
Wyoming Indian’s girls have another tough test the following day against Southeast (at Burns High, Friday, noon). The Cyclones come off a promising season with the potential for more this year. Then there’s the boys game of Snake River against Lingle-Fort Laramie (at Burns Elementary, Friday, 6 p.m.). Both have high ceilings and high hopes of making the state tournament with athletic lineups.
Fireworks off the bat. On the boys side, it begins with young Douglas playing Worland (Buffalo High, Friday, 2:30 p.m.). The girls play in Lovell and have an equally intriguing opening-day game. Returning champion Douglas takes on contender Powell (at Lovell High, Friday, 6 p.m.). It’s a match-up of a full, proven team against one of 3A’s best players, Panthers’ Rachel Bonander.
On the second day it’s returning champion Buffalo hosting promising Lander in a big early-season test (Buffalo High, Saturday, 12:30 p.m.).
Carbon County Classic
The biggest game of the opening day involves the unknown between St. Stephens girls and Encampment (at Encampment, Friday, 4 p.m.). The Eagles should be a tough team in 1A this year, and so should the Tigers, but it will be interesting to see how they fare without big contributors. On the boys side, there’s excitement and grit surrounding Meeteetse and Hanna (at Hanna, Friday, 2:30 p.m.). The McGraw boys open their season against a stout Longhorns team.
Last year’s 1A boys champion gets tested immediately as Kaycee opens with Big Horn (at Glenrock, Friday, 11:30 a.m.), who could be a championship threat in 2A. This second-day meeting between Wright and Greybull (at Glenrock, Saturday, 1 p.m.) could be interesting. The Panthers should be one of the toughest teams in 2A but the Buffaloes return enough talent to stand among the top teams in the class.
Coal Miners Classic
One of the first games involves two promising girls sides. Last year’s regular-season power Lusk opens action against athletic Wright (at Wright, Friday, 9:30 a.m.). That could set the tone early for every following game in that gym. Lusk also opens the action on the final day against title contender Big Horn (at Wright, Saturday, 9:30 a.m.). Athletic, talented Greybull closes action against Wright (at Wright, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.).
Bridger Valley Invite
Since this is a tournament format, further games remain unknown but the opening round has intriguing games. For girls, there’s powerful Cokeville and larger Big Piney (at Mountain View, Friday, 7 p.m.), as the Panthers have tore through 1A, but can they do the same against a 3A opponent. That’s the same sort of intrigue going into Farson and Lyman (at Lyman, Friday, 5:30 p.m.).
In another tournament-format invite, the hosts welcome Ten Sleep (at Upton High, Friday, 1:30 p.m.), who looks for life after their most dynamic player left. For the girls, Tongue River hopes to turnaround its fortunes of last season immediately against a sleeper in 1A’s Hulett (at Upton Elementary, Friday, 3 p.m.).