SHERIDAN — The Kelly Walsh Trojans suffocated the Sheridan Broncs Friday night. Sheridan couldn’t get anything going offensively, and the run at a state title was cut short in a 54-37 loss.
Kelly Walsh entered the state tournament with the state’s best defense, allowing opponents just 45 points per contest. That top defense jumped on the Broncs right away.
The first quarter was a sign of things to come for Sheridan.
It took the Broncs more than six minutes to score a field goal — an Aaron Sessions 3-pointer. Kelly Walsh took an 11-1 lead and led 16-4 after the opening period.
Sheridan trailed the entire game.
“They’re the No. 1 defense in the state for a reason,” Sheridan head coach Jeff Martini said about the Trojans.
Sheridan’s defense has been its bread and butter, as well, this season, and it did its best to keep the Broncs in the game in the second quarter.
The Broncs held Kelly Walsh to 13 points in the quarter and forced nine turnovers in the first half. The defensive stops shifted some momentum to the Sheridan side, and the Broncs had their most productive quarter of the night.
After trailing 21-6 in the early going, the Broncs slowly chipped into the lead. An Aaron Woodward fast-break layup cut the deficit to single digits, and Sheridan cut it to 25-20 late in the quarter.
But Kelly Walsh drained a 3 with a minute to go and took a 29-20 lead into the break.
The Sheridan offense plummeted as it tried to catch up in the second half.
The Broncs, who shot just 32 percent in the first half, dropped to 26 percent in the second half and 29 percent for the game. Even worse, the Broncs shot just 3 of 17 (18 percent) from 3-point range and 6 of 13 (46 percent) from the free-throw line.
“We weren’t able to get into the paint,” Martini said. “They help really well and contest every shot. We just didn’t start really well and played from behind the whole time.”
Kelly Walsh wasn’t much better from 3 or the foul line — 21 percent and 54 percent, respectively — but the Trojans shot 45 percent from the field on the night, including an efficient 50 percent in the second half as they stretched their lead.
The West’s top seed led by as many as 19 in the fourth quarter on its way to a state championship berth.
The Trojans also outrebounded the Broncs 43-28, and 15 offensive rebounds led to a 13-8 second-chance-points advantage.
The loss ends Sheridan’s run at its first state championship since 2003, but it doesn’t end the Broncs’ season. They’ll take on the loser of the Gillette-Rock Springs semifinal in Saturday’s third-place game at 3 p.m.
The Gillette-Rock Springs game had not ended by press time.
A win Saturday would give the Broncs an above-.500 record for the season, and they’ve already established their best state tournament finish since that title in 2003.
“Only one team wins a state title,” Martini said. “We still have an opportunity to take home a trophy, and the team that wants to be there more tends to win these types of games. We just told them to come out and play so they won’t regret it in five years.”
Sheridan High School……4 16 5 12 — 37
Kelly Walsh High School….16 13 6 19 — 54
Sheridan — Christensen 9, Woodward 8, Baker 5, Boedecker 5, Sessions 3, Lee 3, Steel 2, Bower 2
Kelly Walsh — N’Tula 16, Hiatt 13, Eckhardt 11, Marsh 7, Strube 5, Carter 2
Sheridan 28 (Woodward 6); Kelly Walsh 43 (Strube 10)
Sheridan 6 (Steel 3); Kelly Walsh 7 (Strube 3)