Feb 29, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorSt. Stephen's has played its way into the Class 1-A state boys basketball tournament as a No. 4 seed even after a rocky regular season.
Interim coach Ricky Blackburn said this has been the most difficult year he has been a part of with St. Stephen's.
The Eagles went through a coaching change a couple of weeks ago when Brady Slack resigned from the head coaching position.
"A lot of it had to do with the coaching change, and the attitude of the kids," said Blackburn, who has been with the program for the past 12 years as an assistant coach and has been a part of three 1-A state titles.
SSHS was forced to beat Farson in a play-in game at the Class 1-A West regional tournament to kept its season alive.
"Brady brought discipline and new coaching styles," Blackburn said. "The thing that I will miss most about him is the desire to win and pushing the boys to be better." The Eagles edged Dubois in a must-win game 73-70 to make it to state last Saturday at regionals. Lakota Oldman led the attack vs. the Rams dropping in 26 points.
"It was pretty tough on us with the coaching change and the other stuff that was going on," Blackburn said. "The kids have had a hard time adjusting. I didn't change too much. I kept a lot of what Brady did because we didn't want to be to confused going in."
The reward for St. Stephen's is an opening-round game at 9 p.m. vs. Lingle Fort-Laramie (No. 1 seed from East) on Thursday at the Casper Events Center
"I think that we are pretty focused going in," Blackburn said. "We are going to go down and play our style of basketball and play to our strengths. Our defense and rebounding will be the keys."
Lingle set up the game against the Eagles by winning the East regional tournament on Saturday in Gillette beating Upton 52-30 in the title game.
"I was a little surprised that we got the No. 1 seed," Lingle Fort-Laramie coach Kyle Cotton said. "The kids are playing very well defensively."
The Doggers are led by 6-foot-4 player Garrett Meyer.
"In the past, he has been primarily a post player," Cotton said. "He has now been a guard and forward for us."
Cameron Cook is regarded as the top player on the squad.
"He is our main scoring threat," Cotton said. "He has one of the best shots that I have seen. He is a solid player."
Cotton said his team likes to keep the game in the 50-point range, while SSHS has an up-tempo style.
"We know that St. Stephen's likes to run," Cotton said. "We play a different style. We like to slow it down. We will need to make sure that we don't get in a running game."
Meyer will battle in the paint vs. St. Stephen's center Lorenzo Roman.
"Lorenzo will have to come up big," Blackburn said. "I didn't feel like he had a real strong showing at regionals. I feel like he needs to bring it this time."
The winner of the Lingle-Fort Laramie/St. Stephen's game will play at 9 p.m. on Friday at Casper College in one of the semifinals vs. Burlington (No. 2 seed/West)/Kaycee (No. 3 seed/East). The consolation game in the double-elimination tournament is at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Class 1-A boys West regional
basketball opening round
12 p.m. -- Little Snake River (No. 1 seed/West) vs. Midwest (No. 4 seed/East), Casper Events Center.
1:30 p.m. -- Upton (No. 2 seed/East) vs. Ten Sleep (No. 3 seed/West), Casper Events Center.
7:30 p.m. -- Burlington (No. 2 seed/West) vs. Kaycee (No. 3 seed/East), Casper Events Center.
9 p.m. -- Lingle Fort-Laramie (No. 1 seed/East) vs. St. Stephen's (No. 4 seed/West).
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