SHERIDAN — The 4A basketball season begins Thursday. The Sheridan High School boys team will travel to Riverton for a tournament, while the Lady Broncs head to Casper.
The Broncs battle Evanston in their season opener. The Red Devils stood as one of the few teams that got the better of the 20-win Broncs last season and will look to provide a similar early-season test this year.
Sheridan embarks on year three under head coach Jeff Martini. The Broncs finished runner-up last season, falling to rival Campbell County in the state championship game, a year after winning the third-place game at the state tournament.
Sheridan should once again vie for one of the top spots in the state, returning a pair of starters who averaged double figures and a couple prominent bench players that will tackle a much larger role in 2018-19.
Tristan Bower made a significant leap as a junior last season. He transitioned from a reserve player as a sophomore into a player who averaged just shy of 17 points per game as a junior.
Martini will look for a similar bump in production from his point guard this season.
“I think the No. 1 thing with him is he’s got to take another step,” Martini said. “He did a great job last year, and he worked extremely hard in the summer to try and get better. He made more 3s than anyone else in our program and played AAU in different places as he looked (to) improve.”
Bower showcased an ability to do just about everything last year.
He shot 53 percent from the floor, 30 percent from 3-point land and finished well from in close. He led the team with 3.3 assists per contest, while also logging 1.3 steals per game.
Parker Christensen returns as the other starter. The future University of Wyoming football player scored 10.1 points per game in 2017-18 while also corralling a team-best 6.5 rebounds per contest.
Christensen will receive plenty of help in the paint from 6-foot-7 junior Gus Wright and 6-6 sophomore Sam Lecholat. Both of the young post players saw the floor quite a bit last year and both played AAU ball this summer in an effort to expand their game from the block to the arc.
“They haven’t just worked on their post game. They’re stepping outside, and they’re able to handle the ball a little bit too,” Martini said. “We have to be really, really solid on getting rebounds, and those guys have to be some of our top guys, along with Parker, to dominate the boards.
“They’re big, and they compete, and they like to punish each other, so it’s pretty fun to watch.”
Where the Broncs have many pieces returning, the Lady Broncs have few coming back. Eight seniors graduated from last year’s seven-win squad that missed out on qualifying for the state tournament.
“We are young, so we are going to be depending on some younger kids and some kids that haven’t had a lot of minutes at the varsity level,” Sheridan head coach Larry Ligocki said. “I like the kids, and I like what they’re doing right now.”
Jordan Christensen is the lone returning starter, but she could be out for a significant portion of the season with a knee injury. While she’ll still roam around the practice floor and have a spot on the bench, her 7.3 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game will be missed by a squad lacking a true go-to player.
The Lady Broncs will begin year two under Ligocki Thursday against Evanston.