SHERIDAN — After the Sheridan Broncs basketball team lost to eventual state champ Kelly Walsh in Friday night’s semifinal at the 4A state tournament, the season wasn’t over. Sheridan had one more game left on Saturday, a battle for third with rival Gillette — the fourth matchup this season between the schools.
Sheridan head coach Jeff Martini told his players to approach Saturday’s game in such a way that they wouldn’t regret it down the road.
“The team that wants to be here more tends to win these types of games,” he told them.
So that’s how the Broncs played.
Sheridan came out with a desire to win and jumped on the Camels from the start, taking an early lead and cruising to a 54-40 victory to snatch the third-place trophy.
Defense had been the Broncs’ driving force all season, and that’s what it took to slow down the high-scoring Camels. Sheridan played mostly zone to put pressure on Gillette’s starting point guard, Trey Hladky, the state’s leading scorer at 23.3 points per game.
Hladky finished with a game-high 16 points but needed 20 shots to do it. He finished just 5 of 20 and 1 of 11 from beyond the arc.
The Broncs contained everybody else.
“As soon as the guys took the floor, I could tell they were into the game,” Martini said. “They were having fun; they were more loose than they were in the previous games. It was good to see.”
Sheridan held Gillette to 26 percent shooting for the game and just 2 of 24 (8 percent) from beyond the arc. The Camels shot just 19 percent from the floor in the first half as the Broncs jumped to a 29-20 halftime lead.
The Broncs also outrebounded the Camels 37-32, forced 13 turnovers and held Gillette to a zero-assist day.
The defense also took the pressure off of Sheridan’s offense, which finished 42 percent in the game after a 29-percent performance in Friday’s loss to Kelly Walsh.
Parker Christensen led the Broncs with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Drew Boedecker finished with 13 points, and Blayne Baker chipped in 10.
It was an impressive end after opening the season — Martini’s first as head coach — with a 4-7 record during the nonconference portion of the schedule.
“It was a slow start for us,” Martini said. “We had to have somewhat of a different mentality. It took a while to get rolling, but we just kept telling them, ‘Just stick with us; it’s going to be fine.’”
The coach was right. Things were fine.
The Broncs finished with a 14-12 record and took second in both the conference regular season and conference tournament. Their third-place finish at the state tournament was Sheridan’s best since the 2003 season when the team won the state title.
“They bought in,” Martini said of his players. “It was about not giving up on us as coaches or giving up on themselves. Even though we didn’t win a state championship, it was a successful season for us, getting into the state tournament and getting third.”
NOTES: Kelly Walsh defeated Rock Springs 62-49 to claim the boys 4A state title…Cheyenne East beat Gillette 53-50 in the girls 4A championship…Riverton won the 3A boys title, and Star Valley won the 3A girls title.
Sheridan…………………………………………………..16 13 13 12 — 54
Gillette……………………………………………………..10 10 11 9 — 40
Sheridan — Christensen 14, Boedecker 13, Baker 10, Bower 5, Woodward 4, Steel 4, A. Sessions 2, Lee 2
Gillette — Hladky 16, Tucker 9, Palu 5, Duvall 5, Wilkerson 3, Miessler 2
Sheridan 37 (Christensen 10); Gillette 32 (Tucker 6)
Sheridan 6 (Boedecker, Steel 2); Gillette 0