After a season of questioning, Kelly Walsh proved the doubters wrong.
Junior Bastian Hanson subbed in for the final series and scored a turnaround hook just before the final buzzer, sending the Kelly Walsh fans into premature frenzy.
Kelly Walsh won the whiteboard battle with a blanketing defensive scheme and pulled away in the fourth quarter to recapture the 2019 Wyoming State High School Class 4A Boys Basketball Championship at Casper Events Center with a 60-36 win over defending champion Gillette.
Physicality dominated play throughout the opening half as both teams fought for every inch of real estate. Possessions turned into grueling micro-endurance tests. Gillette senior Tyler Neary received an inadvertant elbow to the face from Kelly Walsh senior Sage Coventry while in pursuit for the ball. Neary missed most of the first quarter and the first 2 minutes of the second quarter before the medical team was able to stop the bleeding. Referees halted play for a prolonged stoppage in order to clean spots of blood on the court, allowing Coventry time to do the same.
Neither offense managed momentum in the first half. In a battle of hall-of-fame coaches Bubba Hladky and Randy Roden, the potent scoring threats were accounted for. Gillette sophomore shooter Luke Hladky saw constant coverage from Trojans junior Michael Bradley and a helping defender on the rare occasion he drove the lane. Hladky scored just 2 of his 7 points in the first half a day after dropping 30. His only 3 came in the final minute with the Camels down 15. Gillette countered by throwing both Tel Russel, Austin Robertson and Jake Lacey on Kelly Walsh leading scorer Davion McAdam. The Trojans’ senior captain finished with a game-high 17 despite uncharacteristic misses at close range.
It was a McAdam transition layup, off a pick-pocket steal from Ross Padilla, late in the opening half that started to turn the tide. That layup extended Kelly Walsh’s lead to 21-12 with 3 minutes until the interval. At a time when buckets were at a premium, a nine-point deficit appeared more daunting than usual for the Camels. The Trojans extended the lead to 10 going into the break.
Kelly Walsh maintained a multi-possession lead throughout the second half. The Camels were once able to trim it down to as little as seven but the hot-shooting Camels that knocked off No. 1 Sheridan a night before had frozen with the overnight snow.
Trojans junior Isaiah Wiggins delivered the game’s death nail with just under 7 minutes left. Gillette still pushed the tempo, holding onto hope that shots would fall, when Neary received a pass in the corner. He took a quick glance at the hoop, squared up and let his jumper go. Wiggins ran by and swatted the ball into the Events Center bleachers a foot after it left Neary’s hand. The Kelly Walsh-heavy crowd roared and the Camels let out a deep exhale, trailing by 14.
Kelly Walsh held possession and hit free throws down the stretch to a chorus of cheers.