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21-win season earns Walker the Coach of Year nod
Mar 31, 2013 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports Editor
Numbers don't lie.
Coach Justin Walker guided the Wind River girls team to a 21-9 record this past season.
The record landed the Wind River Lady Cougars a berth in the Class 2-A state tournament.
Walker was voted on as the Fremont County girls coach of the year by the sports staff of the Ranger, Lander Journal and the Wind River News.
"We had a great season," Walker said. "The leadership that we had on the floor was the driving force behind that. We had great leadership from our seniors and juniors."
Amanda C'Bearing and Brett Groesbeck played on the varsity team for four years under Walker.
They started out only winning five games in their first high school varsity season.
They ended up being state title contenders in the Class 2-A level three years later.
"One thing that nobody gets to see is our practices," Walker said. "You can put the practices on your leaders. The intensity level that you have in practice is with that upper-level leadership."
Wind River opened the season strong and never looked back. They were ranked in the top five for most of the season.
"There were a lot of firsts for us that were big wins, to come out of that first weekend to beat Burlington, Rocky Mountain and Greybull," Walker said.
Walker liked the pre-game attitude of his players.
"Our goal this year was to play it game by game and never look too far into the future," Walker said.
One of the best weekends of the season for the Lady Cougars came at the Class 2-A West regional tournament Feb. 21-23 in Riverton.
Wind River came in as the No. 1 seed from the Southwest division. WRHS steamrolled through its opponents to get to the title game.
The Lady Cougars beat Greybull 65-52 in the opening round.
In the semifinals, Wind River edged Thermopolis 43-40.
In the title game, Lovell won 58-46.
At the state tournament, Wind River lost to Southeast 55-42. Rocky Mountain eliminated Wind River 54-45 in consolation play.
"I think the regional championship game will stick out in their mind for a long time," Walker said.
Walker was assisted this year by Dar Vogel.
"Coach Vogel is great," Walker said. "She was very supportive. I'm able to pick her brain a lot of the times. She helps out a lot of the time. She understands what high school athletics is about. I don't know if we would have done what we did this year without that quality support."
Walker already has a plan figured out for the offseason.
The goal for Walker and his team is to play 32 off-season games, matching what his team has done the past four years.
"We will continue to work in the offseason like we have had in the past," Walker said. "We will see a new batch of freshmen come in. We have a lot of experience coming back with our junior class."