This weekend’s mammoth tournament in Cheyenne, also known as the Taco John’s Invitational, may be the largest basketball gathering in Wyoming from Thursday to Saturday, but it’s not the only one.
There’s also the East-West Classic in Pinedale/Rawlins and the Kemmerer Invitational in the Southwest corner of the state. There’s also non-tournament games scheduled for teams in Class 3A and 1A.
For everyone, however, this weekend signals the last doorway to pass through before the looming quadrant and conference play. That gives teams little time to hit their mid-season stride before the importance of each game increases to near-monumental levels.
Here’s what teams are looking at:
This should help determine who’s a real contender this season.
The boys side includes Pine Bluffs, Sheridan, Lander, Kelly Walsh, Cheyenne East, Cheyenne Central, and Green River, all of whom can make massive gains this weekend. Sheridan’s still undefeated, East gained a big win over Kelly Walsh a week before Christmas, Central and Green River still have just one loss each, Lander is a contender in 3A and Pine Bluffs is an undefeated favorite in Class 2A.
The field includes Sheridan’s Tristan Bower (23.8 points, 3.4 assists, 2.0 steals per game), East’s Erik Oliver (20.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists), Green River’s Chase Stoeger (15.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.0 steals) and Kelly Walsh’s Davion McAdam (20.8 points, 6.0 rebounds) as just a few to watch.
Many of the same schools will be competing on the girls side, meaning Cheyenne East, Cheyenne Central, Pine Bluffs, Kelly Walsh and Green River can take steps forward. East and Central are a combined 13-2, Pine Bluffs hasn’t lost since the season opener, Kelly Walsh comes off a tough loss to East and Green River can correct the ship coming off a two-game losing streak after a perfect 5-0 start.
East’s Ky Buell (17.0 points, 3.6 assists, 4.9 steals), Laramie’s Jennifer Aadland (15.7 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.3 blocks), Kelly Walsh’s Danilynn Schell (12.3 points, 5.3 rebounds) and Central’s Ellie Fearneyhough (14.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.8 steals) are individuals to watch there.
As usual, games are spread between all three Cheyenne high schools and Laramie. Those games begin at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday and final games are scheduled for tip-offs at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.
This two-day tournament takes place in Rawlins for the boys and Pinedale for the girls, with both consisting of Class 3A teams.
The No. 1 Buffalo boys’ slate includes Mountain View and Pinedale. The No. 3 Douglas’ boys should get tested by Mountain View as well. With the rest of the field being near .500 and filled with parity, wins this weekend can build separation later needed.
Tait Larson of Douglas (21.7 points), Braeden Walk of Mountain View (17.3 points, 2.5 assists), Pinedale’s Blake Iloway (18.7 points, 2.0 steals) and the Buffalo duo of Aaron Thiele (17.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.8 steals) and Luke Glassock (17.0 points, 3.0 steals) are some standouts there.
Action in Pinedale for the girls’ tournament provides more marquee games. That’s proven on the first day with No. 1 Douglas playing No. 4 Lyman just before No. 2 Buffalo plays No. 3 Mountain View. Then Douglas plays Mountain View and Buffalo plays Lyman on Saturday. Those four are the favorites to be the last four standing this season.
Buffalo’s Kayden Davis (18.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 4.6 steals), Douglas’ Allyson Fertig (16.8 points, 11.2 rebounds), Lyman’s McKinley Bradshaw (19.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 5.6 steals) and the Mountain View trio of Haily Stephens (14.5 points), Lyndee Hereford (14.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals) and Charity Harmon (12.0 points) are scheduled to play.
Four teams involved, for both boys and girls, are Cokeville, Farson, Snake River and the host Rangers. That means the Pronghorn and Panther boys should provide two exciting games. The Farson boys are No. 2 and the girls No. 3 in 1A while the Cokeville girls are top-ranked and the boys are currently No. 3.
Lain Mitchelson of Farson (21.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.3 steals), Snake River’s Riggen Myers (19.2 points, 4.2 assists, 4.8 steals), Cokeville’s Kamile Nate (14.6 points) and Farson’s Maizee Thoren (15.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 4.8 steals) are some of the individuals to watch this weekend.
There’s also the occasional game with Evanston’s junior varsity and Rich County, Utah, at this invitational but those are less consequential. Three of the core four teams involved are 1A Southwest Quadrant teams, although no game this weekend will count toward the quadrant standings.