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Trotting down the court, Elizabeth Lofink looked to her coach for direction. Lofink, a former Thermopolis standout, and her North teammates were down by 3 in the final minute and hoped to tie the game with one last shot.

But as the guard dribbled just past half-court, Taylor Stoeger was waiting.

The former Green River star stayed calm and patient before leaping at the ball, stealing it away from Lofink and running down the court to seal the fate of the game. Stoeger had played well up until that point, but the final 4 minutes were when she took control.

Stoeger tallied six points, five rebounds and four steals in the final 240 seconds, including the final steal with four seconds left to clinch a 73-69 victory for the South over the North in the Wyoming Coaches Foundation Girls Basketball All-Star Game on Saturday at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym.

"I knew it," Stoeger said. "When I got that steal I knew 'This is it, it's ours now.'"

The soon-to-be Larame County Community College soccer player finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, six steals and three assists to lead the South team.

Saturday was her goodbye to basketball, and she made it her curtain call with that performance.

"It's bittersweet," she said. "We ended well, but it's hard thinking it might be my last game, so it's tough."

Initial indications of the game pointed to blowout. The South led 21-10 at the end of the first quarter and had the North throwing the ball around.

But that 11-point lead was the largest of the game, and the North stormed back on a 19-5 run and an and-1 from Natrona graduate Jaye Johnson gave the North its first lead with just over 3 minutes left in the first half.

"I hadn't played a game since the state tournament, and I was a little nervous in the first quarter," Johnson said. "I just came out in the second quarter and found my flow in the game."

From there it was back-and-forth until the South seized control in the fading seconds.

The South re-took the lead before halftime and then the North captured the lead as former Rocky Mountain standout Marissa Arnold hit a 3 from the corner before the buzzer.

"It was so much fun," Stoeger said. "I had a blast. It was a really tough game, we kept it close, back and forth, those are the best games."

Former Worland force Lyndzi Rich peaked in the third quarter during the North's final run. She scored six out of eight North points immediately preceding Arnold's distance jumper.

Rich finished with a game-high 17 points, four rebounds and two assists.

"We played really well," she said. "We hustled well. I think the South team is a really good team, so I thought it was going to be a really good game anyway so I'm glad it was closer than I thought it would be at the beginning."

Rich battled with Cheyenne East graduate Jadyn Kanzler in the paint throughout the game.

Preconceived notions of the all-star game being soft were quickly put to bed with the physicality that those two played with in asserting their positions and going for rebounds.

"It was pretty physical," Rich said. "They have a pretty big girl, and I've played against her but it's been awhile. It was a good game, I liked it. It was fun."

The South captured the lead early in the fourth quarter due to a timely jumper from Mackenzi Reed, the Farson graduate who was the sole Class 1A representative on her team.

Despite her 5-foot, 5-inch size matching the underdog role bestowed on her by being from Class 1A, she scrapped her way to seven points and three rebounds.

"I had a lot of nerves coming in because I'm a 1A player, so I have to make that transition to playing with 4A players and knowing how they play," Reed said. "But after I went out there and warmed up I got them out."

She was also on the court when the South built and lost its 11-point lead in the second quarter.

Reed knew why the South slipped and what made them ultimately come away with the victory.

"At the very beginning we were really into it, loud and transitioning really well," she said. "Then it feels like it just kind of slipped from us, but we got it back together, kind of gathered ourselves and that made a big difference."

It was a familiar feeling playing at Casper College for Johnson, who finished with 15 points and will continue her basketball career as a Thunderbird in the fall. She has already worked with head coach Dwight Gunnare on a couple of Fridays.

But this was her last high school game, and she enjoyed playing with some of the state's best one last time.

"I honestly love this team," Johnson said. "It was a wonderful experience for me."

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Follow sports reporter Brady Oltmans on Twitter @Brady_CST


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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