CASPER – Cheyenne Central’s Lawson Lovering bookended a torrid start with a solid finish and almost willed his team for a win.

The 6-foot-11 sophomore center dropped a career-high 32 points Thursday, but the East No. 4 Indians came up just short in a 55-50 first-round loss to West No. 1 Casper Kelly Walsh at Casper College’s “Swede” Erickson Thunderbird Gym.

Lovering scored Central’s first 15 points in the game, and surprised nearly everyone by going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in the early going en route to 23 first-half points. He entered the tournament 3 of 8 from long distance all season.

“At regionals, I was getting hammered in the post,” Lovering said. “Since I’m a good shooter, we thought to put me on the perimeter when they would be expecting me to go inside. When they stepped back, then I could hit those 3s for more scoring opportunities from there and in the post.”

Lovering finished 12 of 14 in field goals and 5 of 9 from the free-throw line to help the Indians shoot 51.4 percent from the field in the game.

“We had a game plan to take advantage of Lawson’s length and size on the end and be able to get some shots with his ability to shoot the ball,” Central coach Tagg Lain said. “He’s been physically assaulted (inside) for the last four or five games.”

A 7-2 run by the Trojans (21-3 overall) at the end of the first quarter tightened the Indians’ seven-point lead (twice) to two points at 17-15. Both teams then had two lead changes and four ties throughout the second quarter, ending with Kelly Walsh taking a 33-32 lead into the break.

Kelly Walsh was led by senior Davion McAdam, who scored 13 of his team-high 21 points in the first half to go with his 10 total rebounds for the double-double. The Indians responded to the quickness and athleticism with a 2-3 zone after the break.

“As long as we are able to stay in front of them, and with our length, it’s a factor,” Lain said. “They were getting opportunities to get by us, so we wanted to get in front of them and get out to shooters.

“The biggest problem we had was rebounding. (Kelly Walsh) is a tough offensive rebounding team, with 13 offensive rebounds and 12 points on offensive put-back points.”

Kelly Walsh outrebounded Central 32-23 in the game, and 13-3 on the offensive end. Trojans junior Isaiah Wiggins had a game-high 13 rebounds to go with his nine points, and senior Ross Padilla added 11 points.

Down 43-36 heading into the fourth quarter, Central (17-9) went on a 12-4 run to take a 48-47 lead with 2:51 left in the game. The Indians were able to hit Lovering inside for nine of those points during the run.

“People might think since he is 7-foot, it would be a little easy,” Central senior Tanner Weinberger said. “But there’s five people around him at all times, and it can be hard to get him the ball. Especially in the second half, because they figured it out, and it was hard to get him the ball after a while.”

Neither team converted a field goal the rest of the way as it became a lopsided free-throw contest. The Trojans were 8 of 12, while the Indians were 2 of 2.

Junior Ryan Stampfli added eight points for Central, including a key 3-pointer to pull Central to within three points of Kelly Walsh at 47-44 with 4:51 left in the game.

Central will next play West No. 3 Star Valley (16-10) at noon today for the consolation semifinals at the Casper Events Center.

“It’s real important for us, with a young team, to build momentum, play good basketball and be here on Saturday to finish things off on the consolation side,” Lain said.

“In 2015, we won the consolation (final), so with a loss, and two wins – that fueled us for a state championship in 2016. As tough it was for us to lose this game, we have to battle back.”

KELLY WALSH 55, CENTRAL 50

Cheyenne Central..........................17 15 4 14 – 50

Casper Kelly Walsh.......................15 18 10 12 – 55

Cheyenne Central: MacLeary 0-0 0-0 0, Lyman 0-2 0-1 0, Stampfli 2-4 3-4 8, Burke 3-4 0-0 6, Talich 1-2 2-3 4, Bra. Storebo 0-4 0-0 Bro. Storebo 0-1 0-0 0, Weinberger 0-4 0-0 0, Lovering 12-14 5-9 32. Totals: 18-35 10-17 50.

Casper Kelly Walsh: Padilla 4-7 3-4 11, McAdam 7-13 7-7 21, Fanto 0-1 0-0 0, Browning 0-0 0-0 0, Bradley 2-4 1-2 7, Marsh 2-6 2-2 7, Wiggins 2-5 5-8 9, Coventry 0-7 0-1 0, Shopp 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 17-45 18-24 55.

3-pointers: Central 4-15 (Lovering 3-3, Stampfli 1-3, Lyman 0-1, Talich 0-1, Bro. Storebo 0-1, Bra. Storebo 0-2, Weinberger 0-4); Kelly Walsh 3-14 (Bradley 2-4, Marsh 1-4, Padilla 0-1, Fanto 0-1, Shopp 0-1, Coventry 0-3). Rebounds: Central 23 (Lovering 6); Kelly Walsh 32 (Wiggins 13). Assists: Central 6 (Stampfli 3); Kelly Walsh 5 (McAdam 2). Steals: Central 5 (Stampfli 4); Kelly Walsh 6 (Wiggins 2). Turnovers: Central 16 (Lovering 4); Kelly Walsh 10 (Marsh 3, Wiggins 3). Team fouls: Central 19, Kelly Walsh 20. Fouled out: Central 1, (Lyman); Kelly Walsh 1, (Padilla).

David Watson is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached at dwatson@wyosports.net or 307-755-3327. Follow him on Twitter at @dwatsonsports.

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