Fittingly, it was a steal that sealed Kelly Walsh’s 70-63 semifinal win on Friday night at Casper Events Center.
Through a 32-minute battle with the same Cheyenne East team that beat the Trojans three months earlier, Kelly Walsh endured every rally and run only for Kade Marsh to make a steal and ice the 2019 Wyoming State High School Class 4A Boys Basketball Championship semifinal win at the line.
“We expected a dog fight from the start, we just had to wear them down at the end,” Kelly Walsh senior Davion McAdam said, “and I think we did.”
Kelly Walsh jumped out to a 8-0 lead to start the game, causing East head coach Rusty Horsley to call timeout just 2 minutes and 16 seconds into the game. That timeout brought East alive enough to hold the Trojans to just 2 points over the following 5:44 of game time. The T-Birds still weren’t able to seize a lead, which became even more difficult when Randy Roden inevitably solved the defense and the Trojans started another run.
A brief run, capped a 3-pointer from junior Kade Marsh halfway through the second quarter extended the Trojans’ lead to 25-16. The two sides were essentially even throughout the rest of the first half, until a corner 3 from senior Sage Coventry in the final seconds sent the Trojans into the break with a 10-point lead. At that point the Trojans were 4 of 9 from distance and outrebounded East 15-11, including 7-2 on the offensive glass.
Turnovers doomed East’s hope to narrow the margin straight out of the break. Back-to-back turnovers-turned-transition-layups from Marsh and junior Michael Bradley extended the Trojans’ lead to 37-25 less than 3 minutes in. Then sophomore Graedeyn Buell hit a 3, sparking a T-Birds rally. Onyx Jackson scored inside, Xavier McCord scored in transition and Buell hit two free throws to narrow the gap to just a point.
With momentum mounting against them and time winding down, the Trojans brought the ball up court and Bradley settled for a long-distance 3 from the Events Center logo that fell just before the third-quarter buzzer, giving the Trojans a much-needed adrenaline shot into the final 8 minutes.
East’s chance to tie early in the third quarter rolled off the rim along with Buell’s jumper. Marsh extended the Trojans’ lead back to multiple possessions with a corner 3 on Kelly Walsh’s ensuing rebound. East once again got within one possession midway through the final quarter only for McAdam to hit two vital free throws.
“It’s like Coach Roden says, he’s never seen a team gel so well and I agree with him 100 percent,” McAdam said. “We love each other and would do anything for each other to get a win.”
Kelly Walsh consistently beat East’s press by finishing with McAdam at the rim for an easy layup, with a baseline reverse layup from Isaiah Wiggins and even an old-fashioned three-pointer from Connor Shopp. The latter of those three put the Trojans up by nine with just 2 minutes left, forcing East to play at a more frantic pace.
Erik Oliver brought the T-Birds to within 3 on a quick layup with 50 seconds left. He tried to drive the lane and score the next time down but instead was called for charging when backing down Sage Coventry. That gave the Trojans the ball with a four-point lead and 35 seconds left and East simply couldn’t force enough stops down the stretch.
The late semifinal between Gillette and No. 1 Sheridan did not complete by Star-Tribune press deadline.