CHEYENNE – Ramping up the defensive pressure and flying into passing lanes helped No. 1-ranked Cheyenne Central turn a tight game into an 81-63 victory over third-ranked Sheridan on Friday night.
The Broncs (9-5) controlled play early, making five first-quarter 3-pointers and leading by as much as six. Central (13-1) took its first lead late in the opening frame when junior forward Lawson Lovering scored on a post move inside for a 15-14 advantage.
The teams traded the lead five more times before Lovering put Central ahead for good in the final minute of the first half. The 7-footer dunked with 42 seconds remaining to knot the score, and followed that with a jumper with 12 seconds to play for a 33-31 halftime advantage.
“We were playing too fast and overthinking it, we just needed to slow down and play our game,” said Lovering, who led all scorers with 27 points. “We needed to get our eyes on our target, stop overthinking everything and just play.
“We kept fighting and made a little run that allowed us to pull away.”
Sheridan never got closer than 35-34 after the intermission.
The Indians’ guards forced several turnovers that allowed them to score in transition, and also get extra possessions to run through their half-court offense. Central led 57-45 after the third quarter, and pushed its advantage to as much as 20 three different times in the fourth.
“Sheridan played great, and they have some big-time players,” Central coach Tagg Lain said. “We struggled, at times, to shut them down offensively. But, over the course of 32 minutes, we wore down their guards with some pressure.
“For a game where we had so many great big men playing, the difference for us was our guard play and their ability to put pressure on their ball-handlers and make it difficult for them to get anything going offensively.”
The game featured three of Wyoming’s most versatile big men, two of whom have verbally committed to NCAA Division I schools. Lovering – who has pledged to the University of Colorado – made a pair of 3s and was 11 for 14 from the free-throw line. Sheridan’s Sam Lecholat – who stands 6-foot-6 and recently committed to Montana State – finished with a team-best 20 points despite struggling with foul trouble.
Broncs’ senior Gus Wright added 16 points. The 6-7 forward, who has signed with Division II Colorado State-Pueblo made three 3s.
“I was really looking forward to this game because I thought it would be a lot of fun to match up with those guys,” Lovering said. “I just played as hard as I could and they gave me a good challenge. It was really fun.”
Central had 6-2 sophomore guard Nathanial Talich guard Lecholat most often, hoping his skillset would help when Lecholat put the ball on the floor to drive to the basket.
“Sheridan’s big guys are so skilled, and they use them to handle the ball a lot,” Lain said. “(Talich) put a lot of pressure on them, and when they tried to take advantage of him in the post, he held up pretty darned well.”
Talich also was a force on the offensive end, scoring 15 points. That included 10 during the fourth quarter.
Central also got nine points from senior Ethan Cates and junior Brady Storebo. Junior Brock Storebo chipped in with eight.
The Indians host Natrona County at 1:30 p.m. today at the Central Fieldhouse.
CENTRAL 81, SHERIDAN 63
Sheridan…… 20 11 14 18 – 63
Cheyenne Central…… 17 16 24 24 – 81
Sheridan: Bateson 0, Koltiska 7, Rabon 11, Wright 16, Rickett 6, Kutz 0, Dubberley 3, Leach 0, Sinclair 0, Lecholat 20.
Cheyenne Central: Cates 9, Cummings 0, Stampfli 4, Whitworth 0, Lobatos 0, LeBeaumont 4, Talich 18, Bra. Storebo 9, Bro. Storebo 8, Burns 2, Norrod 0, Lovering 27.