SHERIDAN — The Sheridan High School boys basketball team handled Cheyenne East in late January in the Broncs’ first conference road game of the season. However, that East team didn’t have two of its top-five scorers due to suspensions.
Saturday brought a fully-armed Thunderbirds team to Sheridan, and the Broncs needed a late rally to claim a 58-55 victory.
“It was a tougher battle just because they had some really good athletes back,” Sheridan’s Tristan Bower said. “We just buckled down on the defensive end and pulled out the win.”
Bower spearheaded the Broncs comeback with a game-high 29 points, 12 of which occurred in the game’s final five minutes and 34 seconds.
Sheridan trailed 48-42 after the Thunderbirds tallied the first six points of the fourth quarter. Bower poured in six straight for Sheridan that pulled the Broncs to within three at 51-48 with 2:18 left in the game. Bower cut his team’s deficit to one at 53-52 with just under two minutes to play, and Sam Lecholat vaulted the Broncs out in front on two free throws with just 55 seconds left.
Bower — who connected on all 11 of his free-throw attempts — made a pair of freebies with 11.9 seconds remaining that kept Sheridan’s cushion at three points, and a potential game-tying 3-pointer from Erik Oliver — who paced East with 22 points — sailed long.
“It’s a big win because [the Thunderbirds] are so talented,” Sheridan head coach Jeff Martini said. “I think they’ll be in the state championship hunt. They’re a great team, and knowing we can play as well as we did against them, that was good for our confidence.”
The Broncs will also feel quite confident from the free-throw line following Saturday’s performance. Sheridan made 16 of its 19 free-throw attempts and all but one in the fourth quarter.
“We haven’t shot great from the line all year, so it was kind of good to get that going today,” Martini said. “And getting to the line is also difficult against extremely athletic kids. So for us to be able to get to the line, and step up confidently, was great.”
The win improved the Broncs to 14-5 overall and 6-2 in conference, just a game behind Campbell County.
Sheridan’s Aaron Woodward tallied nine points. Lecholat, Abraham Ross, and Gus Wright combined to chip in 15 points off the bench, many of which came during the third quarter after the Thunderbirds went on their biggest run of the game against Sheridan’s starting five.
East led 31-30 at halftime but opened the second half on an 11-0 run. Ross tallied all six of his points — one 3 and one old-fashioned 3-point play — in the third frame that helped Sheridan close the period with a 12-0 jolt.
“I think [the bench players] all play with a lot of energy, and sometimes when you’re sitting on the bench, you get to see what’s going on and what errors your team is making, and you’re able to go out and correct those,” Martini said. “I thought our guys did a good job of playing confident coming off the bench.”
A five-point advantage represented the largest lead for either side in a tightly-contested opening 16 minutes. East held an early 9-4 lead, carving through the Broncs’ zone defense. Sheridan went on 5-0 and 4-0 spurts that leveled the contest at 13. The Broncs earned their five-point cushion on a bucket from Wright before the Thunderbirds closed the half on a 5-0 run to gain the slight lead.
Sheridan travels to Cheyenne South Friday. The Broncs rallied for a 50-42 win over the Bison Jan. 20 in Sheridan.
Cheyenne East….17 14 11 13 — 55
Sheridan…………15 15 12 16 — 58
Cheyenne East — Oliver 22, X. McCord 13, Patton 6, Muchmore 6, Dodson 4, D. McCord 2, Mirich 2
Sheridan — Bower 29, Woodward 9, Ross 6, Christensen 5, Lecholat 5, Wright 4