Feb 28, 2012 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterNight and day. That's about the best way to describe the difference in the style of basketball that was played in Wolverine Gym last week during the Class 2-A West regional tournament and the style of basketball that will be played beginning this Thursday when Riverton High School hosts the Class 4-A West regional tournament.
Last week we saw teams, especially Wind River and Wyoming Indian, run up and down and up and down the court almost the whole game from start to finish. If a shot clock ever is introduced in Wyoming high school basketball, one referee joked that they won't even need to turn it on when either of these two teams plays.
It reminded me of when Heath Schroyer was Wyoming's head basketball coach, and he wanted his teams to shoot every 10 seconds. Sorry, I cannot get used to that brand of basketball, but I know many people enjoy that run-and-gun style.
With the Class 4-A tournament coming to town I have also recalled Wyoming's final game ever played in the old University of Wyoming Fieldhouse.
Kevin McKinney, who partners with Dave Walsh to bring us the Pokes on the radio, beautifully described that last game against the University of Texas at El Paso in a 30th anniversary salute to the Arena Auditorium. You can read that story on the Ranger's website, dailyranger.com.
The score of that game at halftime was 18-16, Wyoming over UTEP -- a Division I college game with two very good NCAA tournament qualifying teams, and neither scored more that 20 in the first half.
I loved it. Defense was valued. Then-coach Jim Brandenberg demanded as much and also required controlled offensive sets. His team was disciplined and took only good shots. This was before a shot clock or 3-point line had been introduced into college basketball.
By the way, Wyoming lost that final game in the Fieldhouse 43-37. I still remember the public address announcer staying on his script and the band playing "Cowboy Joe" to the dejected crowd.
Back to this week.
If you have a chance, come and watch games in Wolverine Gym. There is nothing like Class 4-A tournament basketball.
Especially in the boys bracket, teams will be more likely to grind and grind, and defend and defend.
Of the tournament teams, only Riverton's first-round opponent, Rock Springs, with perhaps the state's best player in Chase Riley, who averages over 20 points-per-game, likes to try and get up and down the floor.
Recall that Casper Natrona and Kelly Walsh scored just 24 points total in the first half of their game last week. Natrona ultimately won 34-32, but the halftime score was 13-11. Wow.
As for Riverton's chances, I like them on the boys side. Coach Dick Quayle has reminded his players that they have to earn a first-round win to get their ticket punched to state. And the Wolverines have struggled against athletic players like Riley and Natrona's Corey Peck.
It's an interesting year in boys 4-A basketball. Riverton has the potential to win it all, or not even get to state. I'm planning on watching the Wolverines play in Casper.
The Riverton girls will have a tougher battle with first-round opponent Evanston. Coach Ron Porter will have his team looking to play its best to try and get that first-round upset. As tough as their season has been with no conference wins, they are one win away from going to the state tournament. How cool would that be?
Unfortunately, Riverton plays the two early games Thursday. The girls tipoff at 4 p.m., and the boys follow about 5:30 p.m.
Let's make an extra effort and get a big crowd at both games to join Riverton's pep band playing our school song with, we hope, a happy ending.
Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!
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