Thursday’s early quarterfinal games of the Wyoming High School Class 1A Boys Basketball Championship at Casper Events Center might have lacked intrigue, but that was fine with Burlington and Encampment.
Burlington, the four-time defending state champs, led Rock River 45-19 at the half and cruised to a 79-35 running-clock victory over the Longhorns. Encampment, meanwhile, doubled up Hanna 70-35 to reach the semifinals for the first time in 10 years.
In the late games, Farson held on for a 69-61 victory over Hulett while Kaycee prevented a West Conference sweep with a 75-69 come-from-behind win over Saratoga.
The late game provided some highlights as Saratoga senior Gage Bartlett almost lifted the Panthers to the upset of the East Regional champion Buckaroos, finishing with 34 points.
Kaycee’s win sets up a rematch of last year’s semifinal game against Farson, which outscored Hulett 38-24 in the second and third quarters to advance.
“We were able to get a lot of inside shots and that helped us get the lead,” Farson head coach Marvin Applequist said. “But we know we’re going to have to play better defense on Friday if we want to get to the championship game.”
Burlington, of course, knows what it takes to get there. And the Huskies did what they needed to do Thursday.
“I thought we did a great job of sharing the ball, as evidenced by our 22 assists,” Burlington head coach Matthew Davidson said.
The majority of those assists came in transition as the Huskies (21-3) got to the basket early and often to keep the Longhorns on their heels.
“Our defense was key,” Davidson said. “We did a good job pressuring the ball and we were able to cause some turnovers.”
Dontae Garza led a balanced Burlington attack with 17 points, followed by Torey Wardell and Dallin Davidson with 16 apiece and Tallon Wiles with 13.
“We emphasized being sharp in the first four minutes of the game and in the first four minutes of the second half,” Wardell said. “And I thought we did that.”
The Huskies will face an Encampment team that also thrives in transition.
After Hanna scored the first point of the game the Tigers got their running game going, pushing the lead to 21-6 on freshman Dalton Peterson’s deep triple at the end of the first quarter. Encampment took a 43-18 lead into the halftime locker room.
“I have to give credit to our point guard, Reid Schroeder,” Encampment head coach Jake Johnston said. “He did a great job of putting the ball where it needed to be.”
Junior Kyler Miller had a game-high 17 points for the Tigers, with Peterson (16) and sophomore Schroeder (11) also scoring in double figures.
On a team dominated by freshmen and sophomores, the Tigers looked like a veteran team Thursday.
“Those guys have put in enough work to be considered juniors and seniors,” Johnston said. “It makes my job easier.”
The Tigers’ job obviously gets tougher Friday against the defending champs. But Johnston believes his young charges will be ready.
“We’re going to have to rebound better than we did (Thursday),” he said. “The main thing for us, though, is to just play loose and have fun.”
Matthew Davidson agrees the semifinal game should be “fun,” but he knows his team has its work cut out if it hopes to get back to the title game.
“Encampment is a very disciplined team and they’re well-balanced,” he said. “It helps that we’ve been here before, but that Southwest Conference is tough.”