CASPER – Cheyenne Central had myriad opportunities to take the lead and pull away.
Central tied Evanston three times late in the fifth-place game of the Wyoming Class 4A state tournament Saturday. It took the lead twice – once early and once in the final seconds. Yet when the game came down to the wire, there was one lingering pest Central couldn’t overcome: free throws.
The Indians converted just half of their attempts from the free-throw line, while Brady Hurd converted a pair of freebies with 13 seconds remaining to help the Devils secure a dramatic 49-48 victory and fifth place at Casper Events Center.
“It’s part of it. For us, we left nine points at the line, and you can’t do that in tight ballgames,” said Central coach Tagg Lain, whose team went 9 of 18 from the line.
Central (18-10 overall) had other chances to take control. A late defense stand, including a key block by senior Thomas Burke on a shot attempt by Hurd, led to a drive by Tanner Weinberger that handed Central a 48-47 lead with 32 seconds left in regulation. But a late foul by Central’s Ryan Stampfli sent Hurd to the line, and the Evanston senior made each attempt count.
“We came down and we felt like we could have an opportunity once we tied it up to use our defense to finish up the game,” Lain added. “We committed two fouls once we got the (game) tied up, and then once we (were) up one. In those two situations, it resulted in three points against us.
“We’ve just got to do a better job in those situations of not fouling.”
Central didn’t shoot it well and was outrebounded in the first half yet trailed by three at halftime.
Evanston was lethal from beyond the arc in the first quarter. Seth Lloyd, who led all scorers with 10 points in the opening frame, connected on a pair of 3s and Garrett Berger’s half-court buzzer-beating 3 gave Evanston a 17-11 advantage.
The Devils went on an 11-2 run to end the first quarter and extended the run in the second. Berger swiped a steal out of the hands of Stampfli and raced down the floor for a one-handed basket and a 25-15 cushion. The scoring play capped a 19-6 run for the Devils, who were in complete control of the game at that moment.
Central shot just 29.6 percent from the floor, but it managed to rally late in the second. Brady Storebo started a 7-0 run and Lawson Lovering added eight more points to pull Central within 25-22 at the break.
“I’m either really hot or really cold,” said Weinberger, who was 2 of 7 from the field, including 1 of 6 from 3-point range. “I either make four in a row or going 0 for 7. I’ve been that way my whole life. I’ve been trying to be more consistent. Same with our team.
“Even Blaine (Lyman) and all those shooters … Lawson, against Kelly Walsh, he was 12 for 14. We’re either hot or not very hot.”
The Indians trailed by seven points early in the third quarter and, while staring at a 29-22 deficit, mounted one of a few rallies in the second half. A drive by Burke, who posted nine points in the game, along with a team-high two steals, made it a one-possession game at 29-26.
Evanston did just enough to keep Central at bay late in the third, but Nathanial Talich capped a 7-0 Central run to knot it at 37-37. Lyman evened the game once more at 46-46 with a pair of free throws late in the fourth.
“We had some momentum going and felt like we could pull the thing out,” Burke said.
But the nagging bug the Indians battled all game long showed up one final time.
“That hurts us a lot,” Burke added. “We left nine up there, and I probably missed the majority of those, and we lost by one point. That definitely plays a big part in the way we lost.”
EVANSTON 49, CENTRAL 48
Evanston..................................... 17 8 14 10 – 49
Cheyenne Central..................… 11 11 15 11 – 48
Evanston: Berger 5-8 2-2 13, Hurd 3-5 3-5 9, Baxter 0-0 0-0 0, Crofts 0-3 0-0 0, Lloyd 7-13 0-0 16, Moeller 0-0 0-0 0, Ellingford 3-6 1-2 7, Evans 2-6 0-0 4, Lind 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 20-43 6-9 49.
Cheyenne Central: Macleary 1-5 1-3 3, Lyman 1-5 3-4 6, Stampfli 0-0 0-0 0, Burke 4-8 1-4 9, Talich 1-1 0-0 2, Bra. Storebo 3-9 2-6 9, Weinberger 2-7 1-6 5, Cates 0-0 0-0 0, Lovering 5-11 3-4 14. Totals: 17-46 9-18 48.
3-pointers: Evanston 3-9 (Berger 1-2, Crofts 0-1, Lloyd 2-4, Evans 0-2); Central 5-18 (Macleary 1-3, Lyman 1-4, Bra. Storebo 1-4, Weinberger 1-6, Lovering 1-1). Rebounds: Evanston 26 (Ellingford 5, Evans 5); Central 34 (Stampfli 6). Assists: Evanston 7 (Berger 2, Lloyd 2); Central 4 (Stampfli 2). Turnovers: Evanston 12 (Crofts 3); Central 14 (Stampfli 4). Blocks: Evanston 0; Central 0. Steals: Evanston 7 (Berger 2, Lloyd 2); Central 6 (Burke 2). Team fouls: Evanston 13, Central 10. Fouled out: Evanston 1 (Ellingford).