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NC girls bball

Natrona County's Kristy Dick drives to the basket during the Fillies' game against Sheridan on Saturday in Casper.

The new basketball season has officially begun.

With Thursday’s opening tips in the Casper Invitational came the dawn of a new season. Everybody started tied for first and every game was a chance to move closer to the state tournament.

As the tournament around Casper consisted of mostly Class 4A schools and 3A additions Riverton and Star Valley, some games came as previews for future meetings. It also gave all of us an opportunity to see a hierarchy form. That hierarchy never arrived.

If there was one word to summarize all 30 games played in three days it would be: unpredictable.

The Sheridan boys opened with a solid win against Rock Springs, which fired past Laramie, which took care of Evanston, which put away Sheridan. It was insanity.

On the girls side of the action, Laramie sneaked by Natrona County, which put away Sheridan, which beat Jackson, which ended a 35-game losing streak during the weekend.

That unpredictability will likely continue as teams struggle to find their rhythm and mid-season form. But there’s a lot to digest between now and conference play.

Surprises

When considering who stood out, it’s hard not to talk about both Rock Springs teams. The boys are a high-octane offense led by freshman Graedyn Buell, who isn’t afraid to pull up as soon as he crosses half court when he’s knocking down shots. His older sister, Ky, was second to only Maggie Justinak last year. Now that Justinak plays for Casper College, Buell is ready to stand on her own and she showed it.

The girls went 3-0 and the boys went 2-1 with their lone loss coming in the opening game against Sheridan.

Both Evanston teams look promising. The boys return a lot from last year’s team that earned the No. 2 seed out of the West Conference and proved it can still play with wins over Sheridan and Riverton. As long as Emmery Wagstaff is healthy, the Lady Red Devils will be a wild card in the conference race as well.

Then there’s the Jackson boys, who proved they can compete and even win. Those Broncs beat Kelly Walsh on a buzzer beater in one of the most shocking results of the weekend.

The Laramie boys also were impressive with their mix of speed and physicality, but consistency was an issue.

The Kelly Walsh girls went undefeated through the weekend even if it wasn’t necessarily in convincing fashion. Head coach Sara Tuomi likes her starting lineup and their new pension for transition, but the lack of a complete four quarters was stressful.

All of those teams made great impressions.

Sleepers

This is the group of teams that didn’t necessarily stand out but should be tough after the season’s first month.

Both Natrona County teams fit this mold.

The boys have to figure out their roles and get comfortable on offense, which should naturally come with more game time. The Mustangs won just one game, but there were a lot of positives to take from the overtime loss to Laramie. Slow starts and turnovers plagued the Fillies, who have a surprising amount of rust to shake off.

Stay woke on the Riverton boys. First impression was the Wolverines would struggle after losing their top seven from last season’s championship team, but a win over a capable Jackson team proved Riverton can win now.

The Star Valley girls will need to polish their game as the conference season drifts near but they have the talent to still be in the thick of the state race.

It was a fun tournament all around and I hope I’m not alone in saying it’s good to have basketball back.

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Follow sports reporter Brady Oltmans on Twitter @Brady_CST

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High School Sports Reporter

Brady Oltmans reports on high school and local sports. He joined the Star-Tribune in July 2016 after covering prep sports and college soccer in Nebraska. He also contributes to University of Wyoming sports coverage. He and his dog live in Casper.

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