Regional basketball action provides highs, lows, laughter and tears

In The Wind


It has been quite a week as we are heading into March Madness. All of our Platte County teams have finished the regional schedule and unlike last year when we were completely shut out from the state tournament, this year we have the Wheatland boys basketball team heading to Casper.

The regional tournament began for Guernsey-Sunrise High School last weekend in snowy and blizzard-laden Buffalo. The weather was not kind and neither were the results for our PCSD No. 2 high school.

The girls were ousted in two and the boys, who won their second game had only to hurdle Hulett to get the free trip to Casper. Falling 11 points short, the seniors were realizing that it was the last time they would leave a basketball court with a Viking jersey on.

This week the 3A teams were duking it out in the regional tournament in Torrington and although the boys went in as a slight underdog and the girls went in as a No. 2 seed, the exact opposites happened. With both teams winning their first games, the boys defeating Glenrock and the girls beating Moorcroft, hopes were high after last Thursday that a trip to Casper may be in order for both teams.

Both then lost their second games and put both teams in a position to punch their tickets to state. The girls would play first and go against Torrington. It was a team they had beaten twice during the regular season and it seemed as if they had the Trailblazer’s number this year. The girls followed their plan to perfection in that first quarter with the one exception of being able to make their shots. They put up nine shots in that first quarter and couldn’t connect on even one.

It was like we were all watching a bad dream knowing that on any given day, these girls could play with anyone in the state. It was a case where a very good team had a very bad day. And of all the times they could have had one, it was in the critical game to win or go home.

There were only a few hours between their loss and when the boys would play their “win or go home” game against Moorcroft. They had beaten Moorcroft the week before, but as was evidenced in the girls game, you can never let the past factor into the present day game.

Within a little over an hour, the boys knew they were going to state and it was bittersweet as the girls were in shock. To make it worse, they were in the Torrington gym and the loss was staring them in the face by way of a raucous Torrington crowd.

The boys then came back and avenged the loss that the girls had earlier and defeated the Torrington boys in the late game.

Being so much a part of covering the sports here in Platte County,  we saw some heartbreak this season. First, the schools of Glendo and Chugwater could not field teams due to a lack of enrollment. Next was the end of the season. It’s never easy. Never pleasant unless you are one of eight basketball teams in Wyoming that hits a walk-off home run, so to speak and wins their final game, making them a champion.

Eight teams. That’s a great minority in a state with 135 high schools.

And when they walk off from the final game knowing they left unfinished business on the table, it always hits me hard. This dates back to my own years playing in high school, then playing in college and then coaching for over 30 years.

They say it’s a learning experience in the process of life when we get in touch with our inner reality that there are disappointments and we all must learn how to cope with them. And we do. Cope. Some better than others.

And the bottom line is that coping never erases the memories of something so near and dear to your heart. Hard lessons for our kids this year, but we learn to look for silver linings and the anticipation of so much of life yet to come.

And though I have coped,  I will always remember that breakaway layup from the left hand side of the lane in the championship game that went around the rim, into the hole and then… back out for the for the loss… and for the lesson. I think to a degree, it did prepare me for other lessons that life would provide.

As for some of the more humorous moments of the regional tournament this year, it was a list of Smitty and Malcolmisms – If you weren’t listening to the game brought to you by Kent Smith and Malcolm Ervin on KZEW 101.7 sports … you simply…  missed out. Not only do they provide some of the best coverage, trivia and information in the state of Wyoming, they are also entertaining as well. Here are some of their “one-liners” as they were broadcasting the game.

For a kid who grew up listening to Bob Uecker doing color for the Milwaukee Brewers, making comments until the milk came out our noses, our duo makes me feel right at home.

“Potatoes O’Brien goes to the line.” - “Buy a dictionary you illiterate jerk.” - “It’s a kerfuffle.” - “My thoughts have powers. I’m special. I will never say I’m always trying to use them for good.” - “My passion for art got crushed in the second grade.”- “Just two idiots in the broadcast booth.” - “I’m not saying he was in the lane for a long time, but he needs to pay a month’s worth of rent.” - “Welcome back to the hatchback report.” - “I don’t believe people believe anything I say.” - “Welcome back to the halftime report. We’ve left the game and went to a Black Eyed Peas concert. We’re in the front row.” - “Our starters sound like a law firm. This quarter brought to you by the law firm of Suko, Stenson, Anderson, Raser and Hyche.” - “It is so hot here in the sweat lodge. I think they’re baking cookies over in the corner.” - “He committed the offensive foul and got a little dinged up.” - “PA Pauley didn’t tell the second half of the story.” - “It’s like going to buy your girlfriend a diamond and then picking up a pebble on the side of the road.” - “I think we are Siskel and Ebert when it comes to the refs.” – Smitty - “Oh they woke me up from a nice little nap that was goin’ on here.” - “Coach Huxtable almost went purple on purple he was so angry.” - “Thanks Nostradamus.” - Smitty  - “I’ll be right back. That microphone will be very hard to find when I’m done with it. Let your imaginations run wild.”

Good Luck Bulldogs at state this week. And for those of you who won’t be able to travel – Smitty and Malcolm will be broadcasting live on the radio. Don’t be afraid to send me some of your best “isms” from the game. I may write a book.