The Rock River girls basketball team had beaten Midwest twice during the regular season in close, low scoring games. When the two teams met up again Saturday in Sheridan with a Class 1A state tournament berth on the line to the winner, the Lady Longhorns had to feel confident in their chances.
But when you haven’t been to any state tournament in nearly 30 years, nerves and doubt are sure to creep into the thought process.
Any ill feelings the Lady Longhorns had were gone by the end of the first quarter.
Rock River outscored Midwest 14-6 in the first eight minutes and never looked back, rolling to a 45-32 win at the Class 1A East Regional in Sheridan.
The Lady Longhorns are back in the state basketball tournament for the first time since 1987. Later on Saturday, Rock River lost 52-41 to Lingle-Fort Laramie in the third-place game.
Kaycee won the regional championship with a 46-36 win over Upton.
“We were focused from the get-go,” Rock River coach Terrance Reese said. “We were strong right from the start and controlled the pace of the game the whole time. We played tough defense and rebounded the basketball, the successful things good teams do in these types of games.”
The Lady Longhorns (17-7 overall) led by as many as 15 points several times in the game and Midwest never got closer than 10 points in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve been focused and we said we’d come in and lay in on the line for each other today,” Reese said. “When you play as a team, good things happen.”
Senior Taylor Brown led a balanced scoring attack with 14 points to go with five rebounds and five assists.
Freshman Taylor Boyles added 10 points while senior Sierra Stricklin chipped in nine points and nine rebounds.
Senior Jolie Wetstein also had a monster game with eight points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and four steals.
Rock River gets the fourth seed from the East and will play a Class 1A first-round game at 6 p.m. Thursday as the No. 4 seed at the Casper Events Center.
“It’s a great feeling, to see the smiles on my girls’ faces, as a coach is something that I know I will always remember,” Reese said.
“Seeing the excitement in their faces and their smiles, it was an amazing feeling.”