CHEYENNE – Cheyenne East wreaked havoc defensively during a 69-46 victory Friday afternoon over Casper Natrona County.
The Lady Thunderbirds jumped into passing lanes, deflected balls to teammates and turned those points into offense for a runaway victory at the Taco John’s Invitational.
“We have known that we have to convert turnovers into points, so we have worked a lot on creating turnovers,” first-year East coach Eric Westling said. “One of our goals this year is to hustle, get tips and steals, and convert those steals into points.
“We did a very good job of that in this game.”
No. 2-ranked East (10-1) finished with 16 steals as a team. Senior guard Sydney Miller corralled seven of those steals. She finished with a team-best 14 points.
“Everyone was doing their part, working their butt off and creating chances for steals for everyone else,” Miller said. “When you play defense that well, it’s not just one person.
“We were smart about anticipating passes, and we defended our men in ways that set us up for more steals. This is what happens when we just play our roles.”
The T-Birds led 21-10 after the first quarter, and Natrona narrowed the gap to 24-20 after a 3-pointer from sophomore Natalie Yaeger with 5 minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the second.
East wasted no time pushing the lead back to double digits.
Junior Madison Blaney’s jump shot from the baseline capped an 8-0 run for the T-Birds, who went into halftime up 40-25.
East led by as much as 26 points late.
“This is two games in a row where I have seen our players pass up better shots and get the ball to a teammate with a better shot,” Westling said. “We have been finding the better shot the past two days, and I have been really pleased with that.”
Junior guard Ky Buell added 12 points for the T-Birds, while Blaney and senior Brooke Bailey chipped in 10 points each.
EAST 69, NATRONA 46
Casper Natrona County…… 10 15 11 10 – 46
Cheyenne East…...............… 21 19 16 13 – 69
Casper Natrona County: Coughenour 4, Hildebrand 5, Robertson 7, Henshaw 3, Mooner 2, Hytrek 13, Yeager 5, Blom 2, Lane 5.
Cheyenne East: Miller 14, E. Jacobsen 0, Alvarado 0, Bailey 10, Blaney 10, K. Buell 12, Martin 8, Castle 0, A. Erickson 5, McEwan 2.
Cheyenne East 54, Rock Springs 43
CHEYENNE – Buell scored a team-best 14 points to go with nine rebounds to help East to a 54-43 win over Rock Springs.
Miller chipped in with 13 points, while Blaney grab-bed eight rebounds to go with six points.
The T-Birds led 21-16 at halftime, but outscored Rock Springs 22-11 during the third quarter.
“Rock Springs scrapped with us the first half, so we challenged our kids to come out and play with more grit,” Westling said. “They really responded in the third.”
Tigers freshman Brenli Jenkins led all scorers with 20 points. Kyla Henry added 14.
East closes the Taco John’s Invitational against Green River at 3 p.m. today.
EAST 54, ROCK SPRINGS 43
Rock Springs…....................… 4 12 11 16 – 43
Cheyenne East…................… 12 9 22 11 – 54
Rock Springs: Henry 14, Mingerey 3, Jenkins 20, Smith 6.
Cheyenne East: Miller 13, E. Jacobsen 0, Alvarado 0, Bailey 6, Blaney 4, K. Buell 14, Brady 6, Martin 7, A. Erickson 4, McEwan 0.
Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.