Feb 28, 2012 - By Randy Tucker, Staff WriterShoshoni's opening round game with Tongue River may be the most interesting in the Class 2-A girls state basketball tournament bracket.
Venerable headcoach Diane Mozur's Tongue River Eagles have seven state championships since 1995. The Eagles were surprised by Pine Bluffs in the East Regional championship and are perhaps the most experienced team in Class 2-A when it comes to state tournament play.
The Wranglers and Eagles have a handful of common opponents in St. Stephen's, Thermopolis, Rocky Mountain, Riverside, Moorcroft, Burns and Wyoming Indian. Tongue River all of these teams while Shoshoni split with Wyoming Indian and Thermopolis but handled the other opponents with similar scores.
Top post player
Tongue River's Sarah Nielson is considered by many one of the best post players in the state. Her "Kevin McHale" style moves make her a force on the low block each time she gets the ball. Sophomore point guard Sarah Rawlings is a great shooter and leads the Eagles in assists. Ciarra Cooley keeps defenses honest with excellent 3-point shooting skills and prevented opponents from packing the paint to deny Nielson the ball and Rawlings the drive.
Tongue River has five balanced players and runs the same effective motion offense that Mozur's teams have used for nearly two decades.
The Wranglers open play against the Eagles at 4:30 pm at Casper College.
The Hornets from Pine Bluffs may be the best kept secret in Class 2-A girls basketball. Pine Bluffs is unbeaten in Wyoming this season. The Hornets only losses came to Kimball and Morrill Nebraska and Pawnee, Colorado.
Nestled directly on the Nebraska border, the Hornets have faced the Chiefs before but only at the state tournament.
The only common opponent this season was the Big Horn Rams a team Pine Bluffs doubled 58-29 and that Wyoming Indian handled 61-48.
Pine Bluffs rides on the capable hands of point guard Conner Graves. Graves takes defensive duties against opposing teams best players and the match of Graves and Wyoming Indian senior Anneshia Hill may be one of the best in the tournament.
Laura Gross is the go to player in the paint for the Hornets, at 5-10 she is a great jumper with quickness and excellent moves.
Kodi Ragsdale plays the swing position and is a consistent scorer inside the arc.
Cassidy Smith plays the two guard, handles the ball well and complements the team. She is most effective on jump shots from 12 to 15 feet and keeps opposing defenses honest when they try to deny the ball to Gross or overplay Ragsdale and Graves.
Pine Bluffs trailed Tongue River by four with 24 seconds left in last week's championship game but "pulled one out of the hat" and edged the Eagles 55-53 for the title.
Tip off opens the state tournament at 9:00 am Thursday at Casper College.
Get your copy of The Ranger online, every day! If you are a current print subscriber and want to also access dailyranger.com online (there is nothing more to purchase) including being able to download The Mining and Energy Edition, click here. Looking to start a new online subscription to dailyranger.com (even if it is for just one day)? Access our secure SSL encrypted server and start your subscription now by clicking here.