Coach: Barry Ward
2019 finish: 6-17, did not qualify for Class 3A state tournament
Top returners: G Erin Griess, sr. (2.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg); F Jaden Gipfert, jr. (5.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg); F Miranda Mosley, sr. (2.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg); F Madison Thompson, jr. (2.6 ppg); G Rylee Ward, so. (11.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.7 spg, 2.9 apg)
About the Lady Broncs: Moving up to Class 3A was an eye-opening experience for Burns, coach Barry Ward said. "The speed and physicality of the game is different at that level," he said. "Class 2A is really physical, but 3A is a whole different level. Douglas is in our conference, and you could make the argument that they were the best team in the state, regardless of classification, last season." ... Ward is hopeful experience and an offseason of preparation can help his squad close the gap within the East Conference. "We're a year older and a year stronger," he said. "It's just a matter of building chemistry and learning to play together. The kids developed some nice chemistry at the team camp we went to in Salt Lake City this summer, but it's a long time between the summer and basketball season, so we have to get that back." Ward describes Gipfert as a great athlete, who is capable of contributing in many ways. ... He calls Griess one of the most unselfish players he has ever coached.
Coach: Glen Kirkbride
2019 finish: 17-10 overall, qualified for 4A state tournament
Top returners: F Jordan Jones, so. (6.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.0 bpg); F Jayla Jones, sr. (7.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg); F Ellie Fearneyhough, sr. (11.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.9 apg, 2.5 spg); G Baylee Delbridge, jr. (8.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.1 spg); G McKenna Sallee, sr. (4.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.7 spg); G McKenzie Boltz, sr. (2.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg).
About the Lady Indians: Kirkbride enters his third season with much of his roster from the 2018-19 campaign still intact. Central graduated just three players off last season’s roster: Jordan Harris, Taylor Stults and Rylee Whalen. … The Indians return most, if not all, of their starting lineup from a year ago, including leading scorer Fearneyhough, who averaged more than 11 points per contest. The Jones sisters also will provide both an inside presence and a shooting presence, along with Delbridge, who arguably is the toughest player in the state. … Kirbride’s expectations for this team are higher than ever, and rightfully so, he said. “Last year, I did not feel liked we peaked at the exact right time,” he said. “So, this year, that’s a focus for us, is trying to bring it along, go through the process – again, the cliché – and get to where we want to be, so we are peaking right where we want to be, right there at the end. These kids are just a little different because I’ve had ‘em now for three years. I do believe this is probably our strongest group. This is a good chance for us to do what we can do and maybe show the rest of the state that we are a basketball school again.”
Coach: Eric Westling
2019 finish: 27-3, 4A state runner-up
Top returners: SG Ky Buell, sr. (16.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.1 apg, 3.7 spg); F Madison Blaney, sr. (10.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.7 bpg); G Emma Jacobsen, jr. (1.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg).
About the Lady T-Birds: After finishing one win away from securing the program’s fifth state championship, the road back to the Class 4A final will be even tougher for the Lady Thunderbirds this winter. East graduated six players off its roster from the 2018-19 campaign, including starters Sydney Miller, Abby Erickson and Kalee McEwan, along with Brooke Bailey and Willow Martin. … Buell, an all-state selection a year ago, led East last season in scoring (16.3 ppg), assists (4.1 apg) and steals (3.7). Buell finished third in scoring in all classes combined. Blaney, also an all-state selection last season, will help lead the T-Birds this season after averaging more than 10 points per contest as a junior last season. Senior Kaiti Castle, Jacobsen and junior Cheyenne Alvarado combined to play in 60 games last season. However, senior Sloane Danni was sidelined with a knee injury that limited her to just two games last winter. … “Ky and Madi have made it their priority to become the leaders this team needs,” Westling said. … “Our three juniors will be immediate impact players. Emma and Cheyenne showed great things in their roles last year … and we’ll look for them to build off that this year. … “Our goals of conference and state championships have remained unchanged. We understand growth all year long is going to be a key component to reach those goals.”
Coach: Chad DeBruyn
2019 finish: 9-15, did not qualify for 4A state tournament
Top returners: SG Calysta Martinez, jr. (12.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.3 spg, 0.5 bpg); G Jaya Brown, jr. (4.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.0 spg); G Angelina Liggett, sr. (2.2 ppg, 2.0 apg, 1.8 spg); G Reyna Tovar, jr. (1.0 ppg); F Riley Van Tassell, jr. (11.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.2 spg).
About the Lady Bison: South is coming off its best season since DeBruyn took over in 2016. … The Bison graduated just five players from the 2018-19 campaign, but they return the nucleus of their lineup that features the duo of Martinez and Van Tassell, both of whom averaged more than 11 and 12 points per game, respectively, last season. … South boasts two seniors and 11 juniors. … Junior guard Autumn Shrove was lost for the season after suffering a knee injury. … “We have been working hard,” DeBruyn said. “It is nice to have juniors and seniors in the gym that are familiar with the system and know what it takes to get through a full varsity schedule. These kids embrace the ‘grind,’ and hopefully we will be ready to make a run in March.”
Coach: Lindsey Forbes
2019 finish: 20-4, third at Class 2A state tournament
Top returners: F Hyleigh Fornstrom, sr. (7.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.0 spg, 2.1 agp); G Maddie Fornstrom, sr. (3.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.7 spg); F Sophie Howard, sr. (3.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg); G Jaden Shelit, so. (2.6 ppg); F Dylan Sweeter, sr. (4.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg).
About the Lady Hornets: Pine Bluffs graduated nearly 60% of its offense from last season, including guard Kammie Ragsdale, who averaged 19.5 points per game. However, Forbes thinks the Hornets have players capable of making up for those losses cumulatively. "We have seven seniors and a sophomore who played significant minutes last season," she said. "These aren't just girls who were on the varsity, they played minutes, contributed and know our system and what we're trying to do." ... Pine Bluffs still needs to establish an identity. "When you have a player like (Ragsdale), who could create so much offense, she's going to be tough to replace, but we have to find an identity, stay hungry and not be complacent," Forbes said. "We have to get better every week and see where that takes us. They have high goals, they work hard, and they push each other. They're not going to let anyone slack."
-Tyler Poslosky and Jeremiah Johnke, WyoSports