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SHERIDAN — It was another electrifying night of basketball as the Wyoming All-Stars traveled north to Billings to battle the Montana All-Stars on Saturday at Rocky Mountain College.
After suffering a heartbreaking loss in the final seconds in Friday’s game, the girls All-Stars fought through another nail-biter, coming out with an 81-75 overtime victory.
After leading for most of the game, the Wyoming All-Stars found themselves down by one with 12 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Sheridan College women’s basketball coach Frank McCarthy, who coached the girls All-Stars, drew up a play to get the ball to Wyoming Ms. Basketball Kaylee Johnson.
“We got the ball into Johnson’s hands, and she hit a tough shot to put us up by one,” McCarthy said.
Montana’s Jillian Barta followed up her game winner from Friday’s game with another big play in the final seconds on Saturday.
A back screen was set to get Barta the ball on the right wing, where she shot a 3-pointer that missed, but she was fouled in the act of shooting.
Wyoming’s Rachel Erickson, who played tight defense on Barta but was called for the foul, argued with the call and received a technical foul. This put Barta at the free-throw line with five shots, only needing to make two to win the game.
The standing-room only crowd was silent. Barta had made six of her eight free throws up to this point as she stepped to the line by herself. Due to the technical foul, nobody else stood at the line.
The crowd gasped as her first shot rattled out and only got louder as she missed her next two.
“Rachel felt terrible,” McCarthy said. “If she (Barta) hits these next two they win, and those shots were because of Rachel’s technical.”
Barta missed again before making her last of the five free throws to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Wyoming scored on their first three possessions in overtime, pulling away from Montana for the 81-75 victory and splitting the series.
“This was one of my favorite teams I’ve coached,” McCarthy said. “They showed great grit and toughness. They gave their best effort and really represented the state well.”
The boy’s game featured the same back-and-forth action, but the Wyoming All-Stars were not as fortunate, losing the game 93-85.
After jumping to an early lead in the first quarter, it was the second quarter that proved to be the backbreaker for Wyoming. Montana outscored Wyoming 33-14 in that time frame, which coach Steve Smiley said was what eventually lost them the game.
“We outscored them in every quarter except that one,” Smiley said. “The final score is the only one that matters, though.”
After trailing by as much as 16, Wyoming clawed their way back, but missed two free throws with the game tied.
“We weren’t bad at the line, but when you’re undersized, you have to be pretty much perfect,” Smiley said. “We missed some crucial ones.”
Due to Montana’s size, the Wyoming All-Stars were forced to take outside shots. Unlike Friday night, they weren’t able to hit as many, making it tougher for them to score. Although Wyoming Mr. Basketball Cody Kelley followed up Friday’s 22-point performance with another 24 on Saturday, the rest of his team struggled to put the ball through the net.
“That’s just it, it was a close enough game to where if somebody else steps up and scores a few more points, we win it,” Smiley said. “That’s why Cody was the player of the year, though. After two games like this, the guys get worn down. Cody kept his game going, but we just missed some shots.”
Montana’s size was too much for Wyoming to overcome, giving Montana’s All-Stars the game, 93-85, and a series sweep.
Sheridan’s Reed Ritterbusch finished with nine points in the boy’s game, while Tongue River’s Sarah Rawlings scored two and Sheridan’s Maddy McClure failed to score for the girls.