SHERIDAN — The Sheridan High School boys basketball team doesn’t possess the seed it wanted at the state tournament, which begins Thursday in Casper. After falling to Campbell County for the third time this season during the regional tournament last week, Sheridan travels to Casper as the No. 3 seed out of the East Conference.
The Broncs square off against No. 2-seeded Rock Springs Thursday at noon at Kelly Walsh High School. The Tigers took runner-up to Evanston in the West Regional Tournament. The Broncs have beaten the Tigers in both matchups this season — first in the season opener, 72-64, and again just after the New Year, 62-61, during the Taco John’s Invite in Cheyenne.
However, Sheridan head coach Jeff Martini believes those two previous games won’t hold any weight come Thursday.
“It’s going to be different for sure,” Martini said. “They’ve changed a little bit, and we’ve changed. I’m sure we’ve both gotten better.”
It will also differ for the simple fact that the Broncs have an opportunity to scout the Tigers. Sheridan didn’t have any film to review for the first matchup — the perils surrounding any season opener — and had zero time to watch film for the second game while in the midst of a busy three-day tournament.
Sheridan enters the state tournament Thursday having lost two of its last three outings. That made the Broncs’ win over Cheyenne Central in the regional third-place game critical for their psyche.
“It was really big for us,” Sheridan’s Parker Christensen said. “We have a better flow going into the week after coming off that win, which is big for us.”
Christensen and the rest of the Broncs still have their eyes set on a state championship, and for most of the season they’ve appeared as one of the favorites. On paper, that doesn’t change as Sheridan got a favorable draw in the tournament bracket.
The three opponents on the Broncs’ side of the bracket — No. 1-seeded Cheyenne East, Rock Springs and No. 4-seeded Kelly Walsh — are a combined 0-5 against Sheridan this season. Campbell County — which accounted for more than half of Sheridan’s in-state losses — earned the No. 2 seed and resides on the same side of the bracket as No. 1-seeded Evanston, No. 3-seeded Natrona and No. 4-seeded Cheyenne Central.
The pieces appear to have fallen fortuitously for the Broncs, but they aren’t looking past their opening-round opponent.
“All we care about is Rock Springs. You can’t win a state championship without winning the first game,” Martini said. “You can’t predict anything. You never know what’s going happen. We’ve got to take care of business in the first game and hopefully move onto the next; that’s how we attack it.”
Sheridan placed third at state last year during Martini’s inaugural year as head coach. Kelly Walsh bounced the Broncs in the semifinals before Sheridan toppled Campbell County in the third-place game, which coincidentally marked the Broncs’ last win over the Camels.
All five of Sheridan’s starters — Christensen, Blayne Baker, Tristan Bower, Aaron Sessions and Aaron Woodward — played on last year’s team, and it’s that experience that’ll pay dividends come Thursday.
“The state tournament is tough, especially for the people that haven’t been there,” Christensen said. “Our whole team is experienced, so I feel that will be better for us.”
The winner between Sheridan and Rock Springs advances to face the winner between Cheyenne East and Kelly Walsh Friday at 7:30 p.m., while the losers of those two games square off in an elimination game Friday at 12 p.m.