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Cheyenne East Vs Thunder Basin 4A Girls

The Thunder Basin Bolts celebrate their win over Cheyenne East in the final game of the Wyoming State High School Class 4A Girls Basketball Championships at the Casper Events Center Saturday, March 9, 2019. The Bolts took their first state championship and upset East with a final of 70-58.

Thunder Basin wanted Saturday afternoon for 365 days. It was a year ago to the day that Cheyenne East had defeated the Bolts in the state semifinals. A regular-season rematch that East won by 22 only furthered the Bolts' desire.

Senior Madison Miller said the last year made the Bolts hungry. And after 32 minutes of redemption senior Abby Geer still wanted a cheeseburger.

Thunder Basin's offensive attack overwhelmed East, and 5-foot guard Meadow Kuntz kept East standout Ky Buell off the scoreboard enough for the Bolts to win the school's first title with a 70-58 victory in the 2019 Wyoming State High School Class 4A Girls Basketball Championship at the Casper Events Center.

Initially, though, the aggressor was Buell and East. The T-Birds junior stared down Kuntz and popped a 3 midway through the first quarter to give the T-Birds a 12-5 advantage. Buell, who may or may not have heard a Bolts player remark after Friday's semifinal win that Kuntz and Geer were two of the best on-ball defenders in the state and would wear down East's leading scorer, let out an audible "Woo!" in Kuntz's direction before getting back on defense.

Kuntz used that moment as a rallying point.

"She made that first one on me and I decided no more," Kuntz said.

A fatal scoring drought in the second quarter that lasted nearly 4 minutes started the T-Birds' downfall. That's when the Bolts made their run. Junior Jersie Taylor made back-to-back 3s to cut the lead to just 2. Sophomore Sydney Solem then put the Bolts ahead with a 3 of her own. Senior Kalee McEwan ended East's drought with a layup only for Madison Miller to counter with another triple.

Geer, measured at 5-5, pulled down an offensive rebound off a missed free throw and scored the put-back to gain a 33-24 lead with under 2 minutes left in the opening half. That was one of 18 offensive rebounds for the Bolts, 13 of which came in the first half when East had 15 overall boards.

"Last time we played them we weren't mentally there," Miller said. "So every day when we came to practice we knew we had to be mentally there. We had one goal to work to, we were really hungry and we wanted that."

Buell's scoring touch returned in the second half and so did East. She hit an open 3 to cut the deficit to single digits halfway through the third. She had the opportunity for an old-fashioned three-point play in the final minute of that quarter that would have trimmed the deficit even more but the free throw didn't fall. Instead, Thunder Basin's Gabby Drube converted an and-1 of her own on the next trip down, 9 seconds before the quarter's end.

Thunder Basin fought off every East charge from there. Consecutive 3's from junior Rigan McInerney created space when the T-Birds gained traction and free throws down the stretch kept a potential comeback far enough away. Kuntz, one of the Bolts' driving forces this season, scored her first points of the game on two free throws with a minute left to widen the lead to double-digits and seal the win.

"My goal, for my team, is not to score," Kuntz said. "I have people that score for me."

Instead, Kuntz's goal was to stop Buell. The East standout finished with 14 points and 5-of-17 from the floor. Kuntz went for a handshake in the game's final moments but was turned away.

"It was a respectful good game, good job," Kuntz said. "She didn't want to shake my hand but that's how it is."

The junior then ran toward the Bolts' bench and jumped into head coach Braidi Lutgen's arms. The wait was over.

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Follow sports reporter Brady Oltmans on Twitter @BradyOltmans

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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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