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The old, the new, and the unexpected at regionals

Feb 27, 2013 - By Randy Tucker, Sports Writer

Some things never seem to change when it comes to the West 2-A Regional in Riverton, yet there were some profound differences in the tournament this year.

On the familiar side of the ledger, who do you always expect to see in the boy's final? If you said Lovell and Wyoming Indian you'd be correct. Dubois, Lyman, Wind River, Rocky Mountain and Greybull all have won titles as well over the 16-year history of the event, but the most excitement comes from a gym full of partisan Chief and Bulldog fans on Saturday night.

This year's final was just another chapter in the long-running saga between the two most successful basketball programs in Class 2-A. Fans of both hope for a rematch next Saturday at the Casper Events Center with the state championship on the line.

On the unique side, the elimination of the Wyoming Indian girls on Saturday morning stands out. Until Saturday, the Lady Chiefs were the only team to qualify for state every year since the 2000 tournament.

Wyoming Indian head coach Aleta Moss knew she had a challenge this year when 20 freshmen showed up at practice, and only two experienced seniors returned. I'd bet the hiatus is a short-lived one, with a talented pool of underclassmen returning.

Heartbreak is common at tournaments as the dreams of youth wither with the final ticking of the clock in a losing contest. No one had more of that than the Rocky Mountain boys this year. The Grizzlies were perhaps the most improved team in the entire West, but a semifinal overtime loss to Wyoming Indian left an exhausted squad returning to the CWC gym early Saturday morning. Big Piney knocked them out of the state tournament with a double-overtime win.

The best comment coming from the stands came from a Rocky Mountain fan in Saturday morning's elimination game with the Lady Chiefs.

"Does she have a permit to camp? She's pitching a tent in there," said one fan of Wyoming Indian's post players lingering for longer than the allowed three seconds in the lane.

The selection of officials is a mysterious process to most fans and even to athletic directors and coaches. When an unexpected official makes a regional or state tournament, a lot of eyebrows are raised. The formal process is based on regular season evaluations conducted by Wyoming High School Activities Association evaluators, on coach's votes and by the WHSAA itself. The ratio of those selections is 50 percent evaluator, 30 percent coaches and 20 percent WHSAA. So, the complaint among many coaches that an official in the tournament never received a single coach's vote is often true.

There were some very solid officials in the tournament in Riverton and Lander, and I'd like to single out the excellent style and control displayed by Ryan Clark and Brandon Kidgell of Worland, and Greg Bartlett of Encampment. In close games, their decisions were accurate, fair and added to the level of play.

With a wealth of talented post players in both the boys and girls bracket, it was an honor to have my old post-isolation offense mentioned by several of the older coaches. One even asked me to draw up the plays that led Shoshoni post players to dominate Wrangler scoring for six seasons in the 1980s and '90s.

As a former coach I'm often privy to information and suggestions that other sports reporters never hear. I've been on both sides of an interview and always make it a point to protect coaches when I can. After 30-plus years in coaching football, basketball and track, and 18 as a reporter, I've seen and experienced a lot of things.

But I can still be surprised.

When interviewing one young coach. I asked about a couple of people from his home town. We both knew them well. When I mentioned that these two sisters from his town used to date friends of mine in college, and that they were very cute, he was aghast.

"I never thought of them as cute," he said. "They're older friends of my mom."

Another illusion shattered by the ravages of age. Here's to a great state tournament.

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