The Rock River girls basketball team embraced the concept that the sum is greater than the parts.
The Lady Longhorns embark on a goal to become the first Rock River girls team to advance to the state tournament since 1983 when the Class 1A East Regional boys and girls tournament begins today in Sheridan.
“The girls have come together and have bought in to an understanding of what it means to play as a team and putting the team first while putting the individual stuff to the side,” second-year Lady Longhorns coach Terrance Reese said. “It is unique to see a group of kids strive to push each other so hard.
“I tell them every day how much I enjoy being a part of this team.”
The Lady Longhorns (15-6 overall, 6-1 Southeast) set themselves up in good position with the top seed from the Southeast. They will play Northeast No. 4 Arvada-Clearmont (9-11, 3-5) at 6 p.m. today.
“(Arvada-Clearmont) is a scrappy team,” Reese said. “They will give us some man-on-man pressure, so we will have to be strong with the basketball and do all the little things. It could be a defensive struggle, but hopefully not if we can knock some shots down.”
Senior Sierra Stricklin leads the Lady Longhorns at 18.2 points per game, third most in 1A. She shoots 51 percent from the field, also third in 1A, while adding a team-high 7.1 rebounds per game.
Senior Jolie Wetstein leads the team and is tied for first in 1A with 5.6 assists per game and is sixth with 4.0 steals per game.
She also averages 7.4 points and 5.9 rebounds.
Senior Taylor Brown adds 7.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.6 apg and 2.98 spg.
“We like to speed teams up with our pressure defense and then get good sets with a pick and roll with Sierra and Jolie working together,” Reese said. “Then, when teams start keying on those two, we go to who we call T-squared — Taylor Brown and (freshman) Taylor Broyles, who can step up and shoot 3’s with confidence.”
Other members of the Lady Longhorns are senior Cali Elliott, junior Michelle Bunce and freshmen Rory Clark-Johnston and Jadzreil Mallory-Coulter.
“We are trying to prove to the rest of the state our girls belong,” Reese said. “Our girls believe in it, and we proved that during the regular season, although we had our ups and downs. We feel like we can play with anyone in the state.”
It’s been even longer since the Longhorns advanced to the state tournament, finishing runner-up in 1971 in what was then Class C in Wyoming.
The Rock River boys (6-15, 2-5) represent the third seed from the Southeast. They will take on Northeast No. 2 Kaycee (18-4, 9-1) at 4:30 p.m. in Sheridan.
“Kaycee is probably the best rebounding team we will see all year,” first-year Longhorns coach Logan Wright said. “They are big, athletic and like to shoot from offensive rebounds.”
Senior Scott Broyles leads the Longhorns with 10.9 ppg to go with 4.3 rpg. Freshman Tristan Bunce adds 9.4 ppg and team-high 3.2 steals per game.
Sophomore Jacob Moore leads on the boards with 5.6 rpg, followed by junior Jason Moore at 5.2 rpg and a team-high 4.0 blocks per game, which is tops in 1A.
“We are really young and lost a lot of points to graduation — last year’s leading scorer in 1A C.J. Smith,” Wright said. “It took us a while to play more as a team and look for each other to score.
“I learned quickly we had to slow things down and work the ball inside and out. We are better shooters when the passes come from the inside and we are also getting better at feeding the post.”
Other players for the Longhorns are senior Ryne Sanchez, sophomores Matt Baxter, Dakota Holaday, Tony Flores, Chase Hargrow and Cade Sanchez and freshmen Quintin Pearce and Owen Rees.