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Chiefs opening with familiar foe at Class
2-A state tournament
Wyoming Indian junior Wilson Clifford rose for a shot over Lovell's Austin Ellis in last Saturday's regional championship game in Riverton. Photo by Randy Tucker

Chiefs opening with familiar foe at Class 2-A state hoops

Feb 27, 2013 - By Randy Tucker, Sports Writer

Wyoming Indian meets the Lusk Tigers at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Casper College.

You might say Lusk head coach Rich Murray has a history with Wyoming Indian High School.

Although the schools are separated by more tuna 250 miles of Wyoming landscape, they seem to find each other quite often in late February and early March.

The Tigers and Chiefs have battled nine times in 11 opportunities since 2000 in the Class 2-A state tournament. Only once in the new millennium have Lusk and Wyoming Indian not qualified for the big dance, so it is almost inevitable that they should meet in Casper.

This year they don't waste any time, opening tournament play against each other at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gymnasium at Casper College.

Both teams sport stellar records. The Chiefs are 23-3, with all three of those loses coming to Lovell in close games.

Lusk is 22-4 on the season, with a pair of loses to Moorcroft, one to Class 3-A Newcastle and one to Hot Springs, S.D.

Wyoming Indian beat Lusk in opening-round action two years ago at Casper College en route to the Class 2-A championship that season.

In 2009 the Chiefs won the title with a 69-61 win over the Tigers.

Murray's only state championship came in 2008 when the Tigers upset unbeaten Wind River in overtime in the semi-finals before cruising past Sundance for the title.

In all, Murray has led to the Tigers to five of their last six state title appearances since 1998. Lusk has beaten the Chiefs three times in state tournament play since dropping from Class A back in 1980 (the equivalent of today's Class 3-A). The Tigers boast wins over the Chiefs in 1988 and back to back in 2002 and 2003 before dropping state championship games to Lovell.

This year's game looks to be another classic in the rivalry.

Lusk is a quick team with not a lot of height but excellent interior defense very well. The Tigers have to be ready to defend the post, as a different style of Wyoming Indian basketball team travels to the finals this season. Senior post Trevor Williamson has emerged as one of the best big men to ever play for the Chiefs, and he is a force on the low block. Joseph Howell gives the Chiefs another presence in the paint with his quick, left-handed style.

Wyoming Indian has three very quick guards in Wilson Clifford, Joey Aragon and team leader Alvin Spoonhunter to mix it up from the perimeter, in transition and on quick drives to the basket.

Wyoming Indian head coach Craig Ferris has worked with his bench throughout the season and can draw from a talented pool of reserves. Donald Clifford, Shane Willow, Tristan Gardner and Tyler Penetac have all contributed at key times throughout the season.

The Chiefs will have a height advantage at every position. Lusk starts 5-5 sophomore Denton Shaw at the point. Matt VandeBossche, a 5-10 junior, and Hunter Dockery also a junior at 5-11, play the off guard positions. 6-2 senior Travis Smith plays the low post, and 6-1 Kevin Christianson plays the four position.

Murray played 10 deep in nearly every game this season. Other Tigers that will see action are

6-0 senior guard Craig Christianson 6-0, 6-0 senior guard Colter Larson, 5-11 sophomore post Derick VandeBossche, 5-11 senior guard Grady Penfield and 6-3 freshman post Jordan Jackson.

Murray is second in tenure among Wyoming 2-A coaches, with 23 years at the Tiger helm. Only Tongue River's Larry Moser with 35 seasons has coached longer.

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Tigers
Wind River, Cougars