Mar 8, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorNote: Lander bounced back to beat Buffalo 60-46 in consolation play Thursday in Casper. The Tigers will now play Powell at 10:30 a.m. at Kelly Walsh High School in the state Class 3-A fifth place game. Catch all of the state tournament details in Sunday's Journal.
CASPER -- Wheatland eliminated Lander Valley High School from the chase for the Class 3-A boys basketball title in a 43-33 victory in the opening round of the state tournament Wednesday at Casper College.
The Tigers, the No. 3 seed from the 3-A West, couldn't generate consistent offense vs. the Bulldogs, seeded second from the 3-A east. Lander shot just 28 percent from the field.
"We played one of the best offensive teams in the state and held them to 43 points," LVHS coach Terry Hopkin said. "If you can't beat a team when they score 43 points, then you know you are not shooting the ball. It was one of those games when nothing was going in for us."
Wheatland played zone defense for the majority of the game and shut down 6-foot-7 Lander center Lucas Watkins, putting two or three players on him. Watkins scored four points in 31 minutes of work.
"I thought that defensively we were really solid," Wheatland coach Mike Cochran said. "We played in front and behind their big guy (Watkins) in a zone. We tried to make them beat us with pull-up jump shots. We boxed Watkins out and didn't give him a lot of second-chance opportunities."
LVHS played Buffalo Thursday afternoon in a consolation game at the Casper Events Center. Wheatland advanced to one of the semifinals to play Star Valley for the right to play in the 3-A title game. Star Valley beat Buffalo 67-49 in the opening round. Lyman downed Newcastle 63-32 and Torrington edged Powell 56-48.
The best the Tigers can now finish in the double-elimination tournament is fifth.
Tanner Simpson was cleared on Tuesday night by his doctor in Laramie to play on Wednesday after he had a torn meniscus in his knee and had surgery on Feb. 21.
The two-time all-state player didn't start in the game and checked in at the 1:49 mark of the first quarter when the Bulldogs were up 12-5.
"In the first quarter, he fell down on his knee and it kind of scared me," Hopkin said. "We had to take it and see how he did. I know that Tanner has worked very hard for four years. Maybe he will get more time in the next game."
Simpson played nine minutes in the game and scored five points, three of those in the closing moments of the game.
"I honestly feel really sorry for Simpson that he doesn't get to be himself at the state tournament," Cochran said. "I'm still sure that he has a pretty good future in athletics."
Hopkin knew it was going to be difficult to guard Wheatland senior guard Ryan Madsen, and he was right.
Madsen started off the game sparking the Bulldogs to a 14-7 lead in the first quarter.
Madsen had 11 of his game-high 15 points in the first half, and Wheatland went into the break ahead 28-12. Wheatland never trailed in the game.
Madsen has signed to play basketball next year for Casper College.
"Ryan is a very good player, but he has a little work to do," Cochran said. "He has to work on his left hand a little bit. He has to work on handling the ball in traffic, but I think that he will get better when he plays around guys that are better."
Wheatland 44, LVHS 33
WHS 14 14 7 8 -- 43
LVHS 7 5 11 10 -- 33
Lander -- Zach Sanders 3 1-2 7, Austin Roberts 2 0-0 4, Jordan Crane (1) 0-0 3, Derek Peil 2 0-0 4, Tanner Simpson 2 1-2 5, Zac Osborne (1) 0-0 3, Casey Winger 1 1-2 3, Lucas Watkins 2 0-0 4. Totals 12 (2) 3-6 33.
Wheatland -- Dusty Nipper 2 1-3 5, Ryan Madsen 6 (1) 0-0 15, Cam Boughton 1 0-2 2, Colby Geile 2 (1) 1-2 8, Scott Huckfeldt 0 1-2 1, Brenda Ruwart 1 1-2 1. Totals 12 (5) 4-11 43.
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