State 3A/4A Boys Basketball Preview
What to look for at State 3A/4A Basketball this weekend.
Embrace the bullseye. That’s the motto of the Kelly Walsh Trojans this season and why not, the Trojans have been ranked #1 or #2 all season long and coach Randy Roden set his team up from the start to Embrace the Bullseye. Roden has won four titles across town at Natrona and now looks to help KW bring home their first since 1981.
A noticeable absence from the sidelines in Casper is that of Gillette coach Mike Curry. After three decades and numerous titles and trophies, it’s Bubba Hladky’s turn to direct the Camels. Hladky played a big part in a lot of state hardware as a longtime assistant to Curry. He’ll have the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year in Cody Kelley to help get them to the title, their first since 2011. Standing in their way first is that of two time champion Evanston. The Red Devils got to state but as a #4 seed.
The Cinderella Story of the post season is that of Cheyenne Central. The Indians won only four games in the regular season and just one of those was in conference play. They showed up when it mattered though, knocking off #3 Sheridan to qualify for state, then winning the third place game. While it’s an uphill battle, the Indians are looking for their first title since 1998.
East and Natrona will hook up first round. The Mustangs have improved all season long and finished third in the West. East was Runner up in the 4A East. Natrona didn’t get to state last year and have achieved several goals on the season in getting back to the final weekend. East didn’t make it to State last year, either. Coach Jeff Bailey and the Thunderbirds are contenders this year and hope to win their school’s first title since the James Johnson led team of 2006.
Last year at state, the buzz was all about Cheyenne South and their first ever trip to the state tournament. The Bison are back this year as the #4 seed from the East. Rock Springs won the consolation trophy last year. They were regional runners up to KW and come into the weekend as a #2 seed. The Tigers haven’t seen a state basketball title since 1976.
Wow. This division has beaten each other into submission this year. Out of the 12 weeks of rankings, five different teams were #1 ranked. No team held it longer than four weeks.
Powell was the pre-season favorite and first year head coach Chase Kistler has the Panthers coming into state as the fourth seed from the West. After narrowly missing the title last year, the Panthers still haven’t won since 1998. Guess who was coaching them then? Answer: Current WHSAA Commissioner Ron Laird.
The Rawlins Outlaws have been building in the last few years. They finished fifth last year and have been ranked #1 at least a week this year. Denver Allard is in his sixth year and hopes to put enough pieces around All Stater Jalen Krenning to make a run at the title. They have 2 titles in school history, that came in 1982 and 1997. The one in 82 came in 4A, the 97 one was in 3A.
They are the defending champions of 3A, but have been discounted much of the season. They lost all but one starter after all. I don’t think you can do that anymore after Star Valley’s third place finish in a tough West regional last weekend. Did you know that Tony Saras has 385 wins in his coaching career in Idaho and Wyoming?
The Cody Broncs won the West last weekend and get the #1 seed at state. Dean Olenik is back on the Bronc bench as head coach. He took over in 2011. He was also the varsity head coach from 1998 to 2000. He left then to go overseas to Kwajalein, part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The Broncs are led by All Stater Brandon Hinze. Cody has never won a boys state basketball championship.
Tim Williams and the Douglas Bearcats are hoping to make some noise in Casper. Williams coached Southeast to a runner up title in 2A to Wyoming Indian a few years ago and now hopes to take the Cats to the top. Douglas hasn’t won a title since 2002.
Terry Hopkin is trying to do something very rare. The coach of the Lander Tigers has won state titles in 1A with Burlington, 2A with Riverside, and now trying to do so in 3A with Lander. Also interesting is that the Tigers last won a title (2008) with Tony Selph as the head coach who had just won three in a row with 1A St Stephens. Hopkin has been around to post a 361 -189 coaching record. Losing Jess Oldham to an ACL injury, however, will make other Tigers have to step up.
Glenrock hasn’t won a title since 1978. The Herders played well at regionals in getting third after beating Douglas, not once, but twice.
Wheatland played for a state title a couple of years ago. They have their best shot since then coming this weekend at a first ever state title. The Dogs are led by Kendrick Jackson, son of former NBA star, Bobby Jackson. He wasn’t in Wheatland his sophomore year, but is back and Wheatland is a contender.