SHERIDAN — The Sheridan High School boys basketball team expected Friday night’s home opener against Natrona to be different than the two teams’ first meeting.
The Broncs couldn’t have been more correct. Well, at least for the first 20 minutes and 25 seconds of the contest.
Sheridan eased to a comfortable win over the Mustangs during the Fremont Motors of Casper Invite a couple weeks ago, however, Friday night’s matchup remained tight for two and half quarters.
Sheridan finally put some distance between itself and Natrona late in the third quarter en route to logging a 64-50 victory to enter the winter break with a 4-2 record.
“I thought they played pretty good defense, and they scored well in the first half,” Sheridan’s Aaron Woodward said. “That’s why they were close to us in the first half and for most of the game.”
Natrona, after trailing 33-28 at halftime, quickly leveled the game with a swift five-point burst out of the halftime locker room. The Mustangs tied it back up at 37-37 with 5:35 to play in the third period but didn’t score again until 4:14 remained in the game.
The Broncs locked in and the defensive plays — that didn’t result in many point during the first 18 minutes — led to easy baskets during the final 18 minutes.
“We were doing a great job of getting our hands on the ball but we weren’t finishing plays,” Sheridan head boys basketball coach Jeff Martini said. “We were going up for rebounds but we weren’t coming down with them because they were getting tipped away.
“Our guys did a good job of finishing those plays in the second half.”
The Broncs’ defense kickstarted a 17-2 run that made it a 52-39 game with 4:14 to play. Sheridan’s lead never shrunk below 10 points the rest of the way.
Woodward paced the Broncs with 20 points, which included a trio of 3-pointers.
“He shot the ball extremely well,” Maritni said. “That’s the best I’ve seen him shoot in two years. Well, one of the best times I’ve seen him shoot it in two years. He did a great job, and when he is able to shoot like that, it creates a lot of space for people, and we are able to get rebounds, and we are able to drive the ball.”
Tristan Bower and Parker Christensen both added 10 points apiece while Aaron Sessions chipped in nine for the Broncs.
Brett Norvelle led the Mustangs with 15 points.
Sheridan jumped out to an 8-2 advantage as four different players scored the first four buckets of the game. The Broncs built a 13-6 lead with under a minute to play in the opening stanza, but the Mustangs carried a 6-0 run into the second period to tighten things up with 7:32 left in the half.
Woodward connected on back-to-back 3s, which gave the Broncs their first double-digit lead of the game at 26-16 with 4:14 remaining in the opening 16 minutes.
Woodward’s field goal at the 2:26 mark of the second quarter gave Sheridan its largest first-half lead at 31-20, but Natrona closed the opening half strong to make it a two-possession game at the break.
Sheridan will now take a week off before getting back onto the practice floor just after Christmas. Sheridan returns to game action Jan. 4 at a tournament in Cheyenne, but for now the Broncs will enjoy the time off.
“We feel good,” Martini said. “It’s going to be good to get a break to let our guys rest. … Hopefully we have a good run in the second half of the season.”
Natrona ….10 18 9 13 — 50
Sheridan …13 20 12 19 — 64
Natrona — Brett Norvelle 15, Jhett George 12, Ben Acres 10, Brennan Hagar 5, Carsen Johnson 4, Jordan Bertagaole 4.
Sheridan — Aaron Woodward 20, Tristan Bower 10, Parker Christensen 10, Aaron Session 9, Blayne Baker 6, Samuel Lecholat 4, Jacob Boint 1.