CASPER – The Wheatland Bulldogs (16-11 overall, 7-7 conference) fought to the very end, but ultimately fell again to the Douglas Bearcats. The Bulldogs were the closest they had been to besting Douglas in the three times they met this season, losing 36-34.
The boys started state tournament play against the Star Valley Braves, who were ultimately crowned 3A champs.
The game started in the Bulldogs’ favor with two straight threes from Tyler Pollock and two more made free throws from Braden Douglas to make eight unanswered points in the first six minutes of the game. The quarter ended with a six-point Bulldog lead, 10-4.
The Braves took the lead back by the middle of the second quarter, 12-10 with 5:56 left in the half. Dusty Nipper tied the game back up with two, but the tie was short lived as the Braves put up four more points. Wheatland put up four more points in the quarter, courtesy of Braxten Fagenbush and Kyle Pollock. The Braves pulled ahead going into the second half, 23-16.
The Braves came into the third with eight straight points until Tyler Pollock scored with two minutes left in the quarter. The Bulldogs put up only three more points by the end of the third; Fagenbush sunk a free throw to wrap it up. The Braves led 33-19.
Star Valley tacked on 11 more points until Nipper scored two with half of the fourth quarter gone. The Bulldogs fought to catch up with two from Fagenbugh, three points from Jordan Castellanos. The Braves put up four more before the Bulldogs struck back with two from Brandon Fluhartyand another two from Jhett Hadley. The Braves ultimately prevailed at the final buzzer, 56-31.
The loss to Star Valley put the Bulldogs into the consolation round, facing their three-time season foe, the Douglas Bearcats.
Tyler Pollock was again responsible for an early lead for the Bulldogs in the first quarter, but the Bearcats made their presence known with nine straight points until Braden Douglas sunk a two. The first quarter ended 11-5.
The Bearcats opened the second quarter with a basket, but Nipper countered with one and Kyle Pollock scored four straight until Douglas took the momentum again. The Bearcats ended up expanding their lead to 12 points going into the second half, 28-16.
The Bulldogs took off in the third quarter with 12 points, shutting the Bearcat offense out for the full eight minutes. Wheatland knotted the score at 28 with points from Fagenbush, Nipper and Douglas.
Brickre Fischer opened the fourth quarter with two more points, giving the lead back to the Bulldogs for the first time since the first quarter. Douglas knotted up the score again at 30 and tacked on five more before Kyle Pollock and Hadley scored two each. Douglas’s Dylan Davidson sunk the final shot of the game, sealing a victory for the Bearcats 36-34.
While Douglas did move on to the consolation championship game, they fell by four the the Rawlins Outlaws. Star Valley ultimately beat Powell for the 3A state title with a last-second shot from Kohl Battleson. Star Valley was the WyoPreps poll favorite to win state. Wheatland was fifth with about 6 percent of the votes, ahead of Lander, Cody and Newcastle.
The Bulldogs graduate Nipper, Castellanos, Fischer, Tyler Pollock and Brendan Ruwart this year.