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Wyoming Indian coach gains third state crown in four years

Mar 18, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports Editor

Wyoming Indian opened the boys basketball season 0-3, but the panic button didn't get pushed.

Behind the coaching guidance of Craig Ferris, the Chiefs fixed everything in time to climb the Class 2-A ranks and win third state title in four years. The championship win over Lovell was Feb. 25 at the Casper Events Center.

"We faced a lot of adversity this year," said Ferris on Wednesday morning. "We had a lot of people that counted us out early. The boys really worked hard for it."

Ferris knew WIHS would be prepared by the time the state title was on the line.

"Everybody was a little worried on what was going to happen this year," Ferris said. "We came together when we needed to come together."

Ferris completed his seventh year as the head coach at WIHS.

"It's pressure that we know is there," said Ferris about fan expectations. "We put it on ourselves. That is our goal of every team that I have coached -- to finish with a state championship."

His brother, Mike Hiwalker, is one of his top assistant coaches.

"I'm glad that he is there," Ferris said. "I love his input. We have it figured out what we need to do to get wins and get the kids motivated. It would be hard to see myself coaching with anybody else."

WIHS played its regional postseason games at Wolverine Gym in Riverton at the Class 2-A West tournament and drew huge crowds.

The fans continued the support at Casper College and at the Casper Events Center during the state tournament.

"Everybody is just proud of what they have accomplished," Ferris said. "Our fans expect every year to be in the state championship game or to be in the title hunt."

Lovell rivalry

Wyoming Indian and the Lovell Bulldogs clashed four times this past season.

The Bulldogs won the regular season series 2-0, but the Chiefs came out top in the West regional championship game and in the state title game.

The two wins by the Bulldogs in the regular season both were big -- a 77-44 victory in December and a 94-59 win later on in the season.

"Lovell beat us pretty good at the start of the season," Ferris said. "They even got us worse later on."

The Chiefs won a semifinal victory against the Bulldogs in the West regional tournament.

Lovell's two stars are Collin May (19 points per game) and Cody Savage (17 points).

"We did a few things different at regionals and we stuck to it in the championship game," said Ferris about May and Savage. "We knew that we had to make the other guys beat us besides May and Savage."

The Chiefs completed their run in Casper, beating Lovell 68-57 for the state championship after falling far behind early in the game.

"The rivalry is always there with Lovell," Ferris said. "It has been built up so much over the past 30 years that we had been playing. To get the third state title over Lovell makes it so much better."

Postseason awards

WIHS senior John Soundingsides was a scoring machine all season and earned a spot on the Class 2-A all-state team.

"He was our silent leader," Ferris said. "We knew that we could count on him for a lot of points."

Soundingsides wasn't silent in the scorebooks as he shattered his own individual scoring mark for WIHS by pouring in 65 against Shoshoni in his last home game.

"Late in the season, he saw a lot of double teams," Ferris said. "He did what it took to adjust. He was focused on winning. That helped in the Greybull game and in the championship game."

Soundingsides finished the season averaging 22.9 points per game.

Junior Alvin Spoonhunter averaged 10 points per game and joined Soundingsides on the all-state roster.

"Every coach loves to have that kid on the team who you tell to get something done and he goes out and does it," Ferris said. "He is just a hard worker, and a great attitude. He always wants to get better."

Ferris said Joey Aragon, Ron Mitchell and Joseph Howell were key to Wyoming Indian's ride back to the top.

"We always talk about roles on the team," Ferris said. "When it came down to it, everybody did what they needed to do to win."

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Wyoming Indian, Chiefs