SHERIDAN — Senior Ethan Rickett first played basketball against teams from Gillette in third grade. The jerseys were a little too big and the players were wearing headbands.

“We were just little kids playing basketball against each other,” Rickett said. “We have played these kids forever, we know what their strengths are, we know what every one of their names are.”

Sheridan begins the conference season against Thunder Basin and Campbell County high schools Jan. 24-25.

As a junior, Rickett’s name was not a the top of the scouting report for opponents as he was the eighth or ninth man off the bench for the Broncs. He needed to grow more as a player entering for his senior season.

Head coach Jeff Martini said Rickett provided a spark off the bench as a role player and picked up points where he could. Rickett was told by the coaches at the end of last season he was going to be a player Sheridan looked to depend on and carry some of the scoring load for this season.

Martini said Rickett improved during the offseason to the position he is in now. Rickett upgraded his defensive abilities and became a more consistent player. He continues to improve in both areas of the game.

Rickett said he spent a lot of time at the Sheridan YMCA putting up shots. He needed to improve his shooting to take on the larger role for the team. Rickett was not a shooter during his junior year; he was good at driving to the basket to score or dishing the ball to Sam Lecholat and Gus Wright.

As a starter, Rickett looks to help more on the offensive end and be a main scoring threat for the Broncs.

“Last year I did not have as much pressure to succeed but I like having more pressure,” Rickett said. “I think I have a key role in our success moving forward and we have a lot of big games coming up.”

Teams have primarily been playing non-conference games up to this point in the season. Martini said non-conference games do not mean a lot. They provide teams the opportunity to gain game experience but the focus is different when it comes to conference basketball.

“We have to start playing for our seed for regionals,” Martini said. “We have to learn from the negative stuff and what we did not do well, really promote the positive things.”

Rickett said the team needs to improve on defense and communicating with one another.

Offensive production is not a concern for Sheridan with everyone on the team having an ability to score the basketball.

Sheridan will want to have as good of a seed as possible heading into the regional tournament. The 4A East Region is a tough region to play in, Martini said.

Six of the eight teams have winning records compared to just one team on the west side of the state — Kelly Walsh High School. The two teams with losing records on the east side of the state are only one game below .500.

“No matter who you play, you are going to have to beat two good teams to reach state,” Martini said. “We have to set ourselves up as best we can.”

The Broncs start conference play by hosting a 10-2 Thunder Basin team on Friday night.

Rickett said Thunder Basin is good at shooting 3-pointers. Sheridan needs to communicate well on defense, not allow open shots and  to prevent easy 3-pointers to have a chance to win the game.

The conference starter and rivalry add more pressure to the game. Martini said it does not matter who they face, the team needs to play their game.

The Lady Broncs host Thunder Basin at 5:30 p.m. followed by the Broncs at 7 p.m. and both teams travel to Campbell County Saturday to conclude the first weekend of conference play.