SHERIDAN — The girls were back at home Friday night.
The University of Wyoming Cowgirls basketball team was in town Friday night to play the Montana State University-Northern Skylights in the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome at Sheridan College.
Kaitlyn Mileto led all scorers with 38 points, and homecoming party-goers Fallon Lewis and Kayla Woodward scored 36 and 32 points apiece as the Cowgirls (1-0) won their first game of the season.
Woodward, who also led the team in rebounds with nine, is a Sheridan native and graduate of Sheridan High School. Teammates Lewis, Jasmine Davis and Hailey Ligocki also draw ties to Sheridan County, making the game a home away from home game. Ligocki is a fellow SHS graduate, who shared the court with Woodward there for two years.
“It’s the best feeling to come back home and play for all of you here,” Woodward said as she addressed the crowd after the game. “Besides Laramie, this is the best place to play.”
The girls started out slow and showed some nerves as they went back and forth with the Skylights, but came out of the first half ahead 35-29.
They continued to give up points in what was predicted to be a runaway win, and with 12 minutes left in the second quarter, the Cowgirls were only up by one point.
A time-out was called and the crowd lit up as mascot Cowboy Joe pulled a young audience member on to the court to dance to “Cotton-Eyed Joe.”
The standing room only crowd covered in brown and gold really seemed to reinvigorate the girls, lifting them up to a more decisive 71-57 win in the end.
Coach Joe Legerski thanked the crowd at the end, before initiating an autograph signing session with the girls.
“I tell my team constantly that people across Wyoming might not see you play every day because of the distance,” he said, “but they know we work hard and we play tough because that’s what Cowgirls do.”
Woodward says her coach and their practices show you how strong the team will be this year.
“Coach is a motivator,” she said. “He’s always saying ‘gotta produce’ but he doesn’t get too mad. He knows we’re girls and we have emotions.”
The contest was truly a family event for the Sheridan community as kids lined up for autographs from Cowboy Joe and their parents wrapped around the gym to meet the team.
“It feels like home here,” coach Legerski said. “I wish we could move Sheridan closer to Laramie so you all can see us every night.”
The girls were able to enjoy the community while in town, starting with a meet and greet at the Holiday Inn Thursday night and they even found time to mingle with kids at the YMCA Friday before the game.
Teammates from outside of Sheridan donated their slots on the pass list to Woodward, allowing her to have 25 guests on the list instead of four.
“It’s hard not to cry about it,” said Woodward on playing in Sheridan in front of so many friends and family, “because I’m sure it’ll be the last time I ever play in Sheridan.”
As a special treat, coach Legerski allowed the local girls to leave the team and go home to stay with family for their last night in town.
The girls looked forward to the season ahead and were grateful for the opportunity to have started off with an opportunity like the one they had Friday night.
“I never thought this would happen,” Woodward commented, “but to come out and play like we did in front of this crowd, that was cool.”