Mar 3, 2013 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorCentral Wyoming College men's basketball coach Shelby Lindley believes the Region IX men's basketball tournament is wide open from top to bottom.
The single-elimination tournament started Saturday with four opening round games at Casper College.
Casper College won the right to host the tournament after winning the North division.
Casper College played Western Nebraska in the final game of the first day.
"Casper College has one of the toughest matchups in the first round," Lindley said. "Anybody can beat anybody on a given night. You just have to play loose."
CWC enters the tournament as the No. 3 seed from the North. The Rustlers play at 6 p.m. Sunday vs. Trinidad State Junior College. CWC finished the conference season at 12-4. The Rustlers are 22-6 overall.
"Trinidad is athletic," Lindley said. "They like to get up and down. We have to keep them down in the 60s and 70s. If they get up in the 90s or 100s, that is the game they like to play. They like to run and gun. We want to win the game 75-65 just like the way we have all year."
Trinidad finished the year 14-14 overall and 7-9 in the South.
"We just need to stay together as team and remember the goal that is at hand," CWC forward Armani Flannigan said. "We have to have the same mind set. If we do that, then I don't think anybody can beat us."
CWC finished the regular season Thursday, Feb. 21, after beating up Little Big Horn College 98-81.
"I'm really excited to get it going," Flannigan said. "We have had a week off. We have been ready to get back on the court."
CWC was eliminated in the opening round last year of the Region IX tourney after putting together a 20-win season.
"The intensity is totally different at the regional tournament," CWC guard Kyler Williams said. "It's just like starting the season over again. Everybody is 0-0. You either win or go home. I don't think of it as pressure. You just have to do what got you there."
The winner of CWC-Trinidad plays the winner of Miles-Otero at 6 p.m. Monday. Otero is 23-7.
"We just have to come out hard and be ready whatever they throw at us," CWC guard Jordan Phouthavong said. "I feel like everybody will want to get after it. Everybody will play hard."
Casper College and Sheridan College tied for first at 13-3. Casper's Thunderbirds and CWC are on the same side of the bracket.
If the Thunderbirds and the Rustlers win two games then a potential rematch could happen in the semifinals.
"We were very close to winning the whole thing," CWC forward Austin Hudson said. "It was unfortunate that we didn't. We had a couple of losses that we probably shouldn't have had. We had a couple of games that slipped away."
Casper College was 2-0 on the year against CWC. Sheridan College split the season series vs. the Rustlers.
Sheridan College played Northeastern Junior College on Saturday in the opening round.
"The top three teams, and even the fourth team, was right next to each other," Hudson said. "All the top four seeds worked for their positions."
North Platte won the South title with a 13-3 mark. Otero Junior College finished second at 11-5.
Lindley said CWC enters the postseason tournament healthy. Point guard Davion Pearson had been bothered by a pulled hamstring recently but not now.
The semifinals are Tuesday night. The championship game is at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The Class 3-A/4-A boys and girls state basketball tournament starts Thursday in Casper, also using Thunderbird Gym for some games.
Region IX men's
Sheridan College vs. Northeastern Junior College
North Plate vs. Dawson Community College
Otero vs. Miles
Casper College vs. Western Nebraska
1 p.m. --- Laramie County Community College vs. Western Wyoming
3 p.m -- Gillette College vs. Eastern Wyoming
6 p.m. -- Central Wyoming College vs. Trinidad
8 p.m. -- Lamar vs. Northwest Community College
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