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CASPER — “It’s a great day to be a Ram,” Big Horn basketball coach Michael McGuire said, as his team and Big Horn community members swapped hugs in celebration near the east end of the Casper Events Center.
Saturday, the Lady Rams edged out Wyoming Indian High School in a thrilling 50-49 contest to take the 2A state title.
This is the team’s first state championship since 2009. The Lady Rams finished the season with an 18-game winning streak.
“What awesome kids,” McGuire said about his team. “It wasn’t always easy, but we battled. We battled all year and we came out today and found a way to win. …What this team will always be remembered for is that we battled every step of the way.”
While it’s true that Big Horn battled through some tough opponents during its remarkable season, the team took on the fastest and most physical team it had faced all year in Wyoming Indian. The Lady Chiefs ran an effective full-court press on the Lady Rams, jumping out to a quick 5-point lead in the opening minutes of the game.
Once the jitters subsided and they settled into a groove, the Lady Rams went back to doing what they do best — moving the ball around and playing quality defense.
The Lady Rams took the lead midway through the first quarter and never lost it again. But that’s not to say Wyoming Indian didn’t come close to taking control several times throughout the game.
Wyoming Indian’s Amryn Brown kept the Lady Chiefs in the game with a stellar second-half performance. She put up a total of 30 points for her team. Through her efforts, Wyoming Indian shot 19 percent from the field in the first half compared to 54.5 percent in the final two quarters.
The Lady Rams held a 9-point lead in the fourth quarter when the Lady Chiefs came roaring back in the final minute. Up by 4, Emily Blaney received a hard foul and made her way to the free throw line, where she drained the final 2 points for her team.
“We’ve had a lot of close games this year, so I think that helped us stay calm during the game,” Blaney said.
Wyoming Indian responded with a bucket and a free throw, and Big Horn found itself with the ball with only seconds left. A foul put Blaney back at the line with just more than four seconds left. She missed the first and was called for stepping over the line on her second shot, giving the ball back to the Lady Chiefs.
Wyoming Indian got the ball to half court, but didn’t have enough time to get another shot off, and the Lady Rams’ bench stormed the court in celebration.
“There’s no greater feeling in the world,” senior forward Abby Buckingham said after the win. “It’s better doing it with your best friends.”
Eight players registered points for the Lady Rams Saturday, but the lead scorers were the team’s seniors Buckingham and Blaney, who had 12 points apiece.
“All year, it’s somebody different for us every night,” McGuire said. “That’s the way it was tonight and every step of the way.”
A state title was special for McGuire, who also won the a championship with Big Horn’s football team in the fall.
“It’s been an unbelievable three months,” McGuire said. “I am blessed to be where I’m at, to work with the young people that I do and to have the amazing family support I have.”