CASPER – There was a certain theme revolving around the Cheyenne Central boys basketball team after it didn’t qualify for the 2020 Wyoming Class 4A state tournament.
Central compared its regional tournament losses to the University of Virgina’s defeat in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2018 as a No. 1 seed. Central was, however, the No.1-ranked team in the state for almost the entirety of last season. Just as Virginia did the following season, Central bounced back to win a title.
The Indians defeated Thunder Basin 55-40 Saturday evening at the Wyoming Center to win the Class 4A state championship.
“Before the postseason, we watched the documentary about (Virginia) and we talked about it all year,” Central coach Tagg Lain said. “We used it as a way to say you can either redeem yourself, or you can’t.”
Central (21-3) started the contest by getting out to a quick 7-2 advantage after junior Nathanial Talich found senior Brady Storebo inside for the finish with 4 minutes, 13 seconds remaining in the opening period. Thunder Basin went on a small run to close the gap and junior Deegan Williams nailed a corner 3-pointer to put the Bolts behind 11-10 late in the first.
The lead was extended early in the second quarter by Central and remained steady until Thunder Basin went on another run to close out the first half.
After Central senior Lawson Lovering hit a pair of free throws with 1:44 to play in the half, Thunder Basin capitalized on two Central turnovers and finished the half by going on a 6-0 run. Five of those points came from senior Andre Felton.
Thunder Basin (15-9) only shot six 3-pointers in the first half. With 26 3-point attempts per game, the team ranks second in 4A in that category. One thing that limited the Bolts 3-point attempts was not being able to grab offensive rebounds and kick out, which is typically the best time for a 3-point attempt. Thunder Basin only had five total rebounds in the first half and only one offensive rebound.
“We were in gaps and getting loose balls,” Lain said. “But there were very few second shots from them where they could really ding you off a 3.”
The Bolts also make 9.8 triples per game. On Saturday, they only had five.
“We didn’t play a lot of help defense and stuck with our guys on the perimeter,” said Lovering, who finished with nine points and a game-high 12 rebounds. “We just made them play long offensive possessions, they couldn’t find a good shot and we just played good perimeter defense, that’s all I can say.”
Central started the second half with three consecutive turnovers, but the Bolts failed to capitalize, turning the ball over in their own right. Williams managed to tie the game 25-25 early in the third frame, but the Indians went the rest of the quarter by going on a 12-2 run to take a 37-27 lead into the final period that was capped by a Talich pull up 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Bolts hit some shots down the stretch to hang around, but the Indians had an answer for everything and put the game away by hitting free throws and continuing to be aggressive.
“Thunder Basin brought their A game, we just stuck with it and found some ways to attack downhill,” Lain said. “They had gotten us on our heels a little bit, but we found our way in the third and fourth quarter to attack the rim, and our free-throw shooting down the stretch was huge.”
Talich finished with a game-high 26 points and Storebo added 11. Felton paced Thunder Basin with 18.
With its 26th title in school history, Central was finally able to wash last year’s bad taste out of their mouths and get a taste of some hardware.
“This is a just a huge win for us and a huge win for Central,” Storebo said. “This is sweeter than ever.”
CENTRAL 55, THUNDER BASIN 40
Cheyenne Central…… 13 12 12 18 – 55
Thunder Basin…… 10 13 4 13 – 40
Cheyenne Central: Whitworth 0-2 0-0 0, C. Lobatos 0-1 0-0 0, N. Talich 6-6 11-12 26, Bra. Storebo 5-10 1-2 11, Bro. Storebo 2-3 1-2 5, Burns 2-4 0-0 4, Lovering 3-4 3-3 9. Totals: 18-30 16-19 55.
Thunder Basin: D. Felton 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 6-12 3-7 17, A. Felton 7-16 2-3 18, Cox 1-3 0-1 3, Ayers 0-2 0-0 0, LaFramboise 0-0 0-0 0, Hanson 0-0 0-0 0, Baker 0-2 0-0 0, Tarter 0-0 0-0 0, Howell 0-0 0-0 0, Holte 1-5 0-0 2, Williams 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-40 5-11 42.
3-pointers: CC 3-7 (Whitworth 0-2, C. Lobatos 0-1, N. Talich 3-3, Bra. Storebo 0-1); TB 5-21 (Williams 2-4, A. Felton 2-8, Cox 1-3, Ayers 0-1, Baker 0-2, Holte 0-3). Rebounds: CC 29 (Lovering 12); TB 13 (Williams 3, Ayers 3). Assists: CC 8 (N. Talich 3, Burns 3); TB 9 (Williams 4). Turnovers: CC 14 (N. Talich 3, Lovering 3); TB 6 (Three with 2). Steals: CC 2 (C. Lobatos, Bro. Storebo); TB 6 (Ayers 2, Holte 2). Team fouls: CC 17, TB 18. Fouled out: CC 1 (C. Lobatos); TB 1 (Baker).