Only one person sitting on the Douglas bench at the Casper Events Center did not play 20 seconds or more in Saturday’s 2018 Wyoming State High School Class 3A Girls Basketball Championship game.
Three freshmen, one sophomore, six juniors and one very important senior all had their roles to play in the season’s ultimate game. All were needed to hold off Buffalo, which played the Bearcats to within a point in the regional final and forced overtime in their second meeting of the season. They all had their moments and together they were perfect.
A complete team effort put Douglas ahead 19-2 early and an equally distributed defensive performance in the second half kept the Bison outside of seven points in the 63-52 season finale. Together the Bearcats etched themselves into the history books as the first undefeated 3A girls team since Douglas did it in 2005.
“With these girls anything is possible,” junior Haedyn Rhoades said. “It was just really amazing to do our best every single time and come out with the W every time.”
The first time Douglas played Buffalo this season, freshman forward Allyson Fertig took over. She had 16 points, 17 rebounds and 14 blocks against the Bison as her 6-foot-4 frame dominated the undersized opponent. Fertig grabbed 22 rebounds to go along with 10 points and six blocks on Saturday. She played 28 of the game’s 32 minutes.
Fertig led Douglas in scoring with 14.5 per game going into the state tournament. She was the leading scorer in half of the first 26 games. While her size alone overwhelms opponents, her agility and intelligence makes her a match-up nightmare.
“Sometimes practice can be tiring but we pushed ourselves to be better,” Fertig said. “It’s really hard sometimes but it’s really fun because we know we’re going to get better. So it’s not stressful.”
For just the fourth time over the season’s 27 games Rhoades led the Bearcats in scoring on Saturday. She left defenders in her wake on her relentless drives to the basket. The junior point guard finished 7 of 12 from the field, 5 of 8 from 3, and netted a game-high 24 points.
She helped the Bearcats lead by as much as 22 in the third quarter and earned the right to hold the championship trophy at the podium after that lead settled on 11 at the buzzer. She played for all but 20 seconds.
“All of us girls have just put in so much work this season,” Rhoades said. “It’s just really great for all of that to pay off and for us to win the state championship.”
Freshman Joslin Igo, who four times led the Bearcats in scoring this season, waited for her moment. She hovered around the paint and waited for her classmate to draw defenders so she could streak toward the hoop. Igo finished with 12 points in just under 24 minutes.
Junior Emily Curtis was Douglas’ leading scorer in three games, including the first two of the season. She took just three shots and played only 12 minutes because of foul trouble Saturday, but she still had five points and three rebounds.
Bonding them all together was the team’s lone senior, Madison Hoopman, who led the team in scoring just once all season. Hoopman’s influence as a facilitator became apparent with each outlet pass and vote of advice. She had eight points and eight rebounds on Saturday in 26 minutes.
Before the championship game even started Hoopman stood at the elbow and ran into her circled teammates at the baseline, just like she did in every other pre-game ritual this season. They bobbed and swayed in unison as Hoopman delivered her final speech before her final game.
“We know that we do what we do best when we’re playing with each other and for each other,” Hoopman told her teammates. “So we’ve just got to go out there and believe in everyone else as much as you believe in yourself and we’ll get it.”
Douglas now has achieved two of the four undefeated seasons in 3A girls. The Bearcats also return 11 players, four starters next season. Together, they are already the favorite.
“I’m so lucky to be around this great group of kids,” Douglas head coach Cody Helenbolt said.