CASPER – Hours after Lawson Lovering turned in a career performance against Casper Kelly Walsh, the Cheyenne Central sophomore was at it again Friday afternoon.
No, Lovering didn’t wow with a whopping 32 points. But his nine fourth-quarter points helped clinch a 51-40 victory over Star Valley during an elimination game at the Wyoming Class 4A state tournament at the Casper Events Center.
Lovering also assured his senior teammates they would have one final game.
“He is just going to get better and better, and also better and better in the fourth quarter, and be able to take (the game) over whenever he wants,” Central senior Tanner Weinberger said. “I like that. It’s going to be interesting to see him when he is a senior.”
Speaking of seniors, Blaine Lyman kept the Indians in the game in the first half.
Less than 24 hours after a sub-par shooting performance from the perimeter, Central was locked in and focused from the opening tipoff against Star Valley. Central shot just 26.6 percent from beyond the arc in Thursday’s first round loss to Casper Kelly Walsh.
That wasn’t the case Friday afternoon.
Led by a relentless pursuit to throw up 3-ball after 3-ball, the Indians cashed in early and often, shooting at a 50 percent clip from behind the arc in the first half. Lyman connected on his first two tries to pump some momentum into his team.
While the Indians had early success from deep range, they were unable to get anything going from inside the perimeter, which, in part, helped the Braves grab an 11-9 lead entering the second quarter.
But the Indians (18-9 overall) responded with their biggest run of the game. Sophomore Brady Storebo posted the Indians’ first field goal of the day and knotted the game 11-11 early in the second frame. The Indians proceeded to go on a 15-0 run and a 21-11 advantage.
Lyman hit a trio of 3s in the half, while Weinberger and Storebo also connected from beyond the arc to push the margin to 31-17.
“We just had a lot more open looks. (Thursday) we didn’t have much open for us,” Lyman said. “(Star Valley) was in a zone, so we pulled those open shots, and they went in for us a little bit.”
Part of the reason the Indians were able to close out the first half on a 26-5 run was because of the efforts of senior Thomas Burke. The 6-foot-5 guard snagged four rebounds and added an assist in the first half. He finished with a game-high 10 boards.
“He gave us a lot of second opportunities and possessions in key moments, and he was relentless,” Central coach Tagg Lain said. “This is about as good as you can hope for his last weekend as a senior, because he has played great.”
After watching their opponents go on run after run during the first half, the Braves strung together a run of their own to open the second half. A handful of turnovers by the Indians only fueled the Braves, who cut the deficit to three points late in the third quarter. A pull-up jumper by Taylor Horsley capped a 13-2 run and cut the Indians’ lead to 33-30 with 2 minutes, 11 seconds left in the quarter.
“(We) stalled out a little bit in the third quarter,” Lain said.
Held in check for the first three quarters, Lovering found a spark and never lost it. Unable to use his 6-foot-11 frame inside the paint for the majority of the game, the Central standout made sure to crash the lane and draw fouls whenever he could. Lovering went on a 6-0 run himself midway through the fourth to help Central extend its lead to 45-36. He added a handful of free throws to help ice the game.
“The first three quarters, I wasn’t being aggressive when I got down in the post,” Lovering said. “I realized when I get down (in the post), I need to score because they’re so much smaller than me, and I need to take advantage of down low.
“I finally did that in the fourth quarter, and I think it helped us go on a run in the fourth quarter to end up beating them.
Central faces Evanston for fifth place at noon today at the Casper Events Center.
“We don’t really care about what happened (Thursday) night,” Lovering added. “We’re focused about (today) and next year now. (Kelly Walsh is) in the past. We’re done with that now.
“Like Coach Lain said, the team that won the 2016 championship, they won the consolation (championship) in 2015. So that’s what we’re trying to do right now.”
CENTRAL 51, STAR VALLEY 40
Cheyenne Central...…................9 22 4 16 – 51
Star Valley...…........................... 11 6 11 10 – 40
Cheyenne Central: Macleary 0-0 0-0 0, Lyman 4-10 2-2 13, Stampfli 0-2 0-0 0, Burke 2-4 2-6 6, Talich 0-0 2-4 2, Bra. Storebo 3-6 1-2 8, Bro. Storebo 2-2 2-2 6, Weinberger 1-5 0-0 3, Cates 0-0 0-0 0, Lovering 4-10 5-6 13. Totals: 16-39 14-22 51.
Star Valley: Merrell 3-9 0-3 7, Jeske 0-2 0-0 0, Horsley 4-8 0-0 10, Cazier 1-6 0-0 3, Johnson 1-4 0-1 2, Lawson 0-1 1-2 1, Shaw 2-7 2-6 6, Thompson 1-4 1-2 3, M. Erickson 2-4 2-2 6. Totals: 14-47 8-18 40.
3-pointers: Central 5-12 (Lyman 3-7, Bra. Storebo 1-1, Weinberger 1-4); Star Valley 4-22 (Merrell 1-6, Jeske 0-2, Horsley 2-3, Cazier 1-3, Lawson 0-1, Shaw 0-4, Thompson 0-2, H. Erickson 0-1). Rebounds: Central 40 (Burke 10); Star Valley 29 (Jeske 5). Assists: Central 9 (Lyman 3); Star Valley 6 (Jeske 2, Shaw 2). Turnovers: Central 18 (Stampfli 3); Star Valley 13 (Three with 3). Blocks: Central 2 (Bra. Storebo 2); Star Valley 2 (Horsley 1, M. Erickson 1). Steals: Central 3 (Three with 1); Star Valley 9 (Shaw 2, M. Erickson 2) Team fouls: Central 18, Star Valley 20.