WHEATLAND – The Lady Bulldogs went into this year’s regional tournament stacked against some pretty tough teams in Newcastle, Douglas and Buffalo which seem to be in a class by themselves this year. That’s just the east, not even mentioning Lander, Lyman and Pinedale from the west.
Many did not expect Douglas to be the powerhouse that they were last year, winning the 3A Wyoming state girls basketball championship in a runaway. After all, all-world athlete Allyson Fertig had graduated and has gone on to play basketball at D1 University of Wyoming where she has already scored over 250 points for the Lady Cowgirls.
But Douglas has amassed a 22-3 record losing only to Buffalo and Newcastle. The Lady Bulldogs were going to have to play them in their first regional tournament game.
With both nerves and two bad losses to the Bearcats during the season, Wheatland came out a bit shaky and could not figure out the solution to the Douglas pressure. With one quarter in the books, Wheatland had yet to find the basket.
The second quarter they finally scored and the girls settled down to being beaten in the quarter only by 10 points. They went into the half at 32-8. Although Douglas tried to reach that 40-point mercy rule, the Lady Bulldogs fought back time and time again. In the second half the girls were only outscored 23-17 and lost to a powerhouse by 30.
The Lady Bulldogs had 17 turnovers to Douglas’ four and they shot only 13% to the Bearcats who were hitting one of every four shots they put up.
The game against Hot Springs County Friday morning was supposed to be a bit easier and the girls had more confidence as they had already beaten the Bobcats by 10 last December. Kacey Otero came out with the hot hand in the first half scoring 12 points as the Dogs went into the locker room with a 19-12 lead.
In the second half HSC found a way to lock down Otero and held her without a point the rest of the way. The Bobcats were focused and hungry in the third quarter and began to chip into the Bulldog lead, but the Lady Dogs prevailed against the charge and still maintained a slight lead late in the quarter at 25-23.
Hot Springs came out with a long three to begin the fourth quarter and although the tendency was to panic, the Bulldogs kept their poise even through the lead changes and the furious action on the floor. Wheatland built another three-point lead at 29-26, but once again the Bobcats cut into it and cut the score to 29-28. With just over two-minutes left in the game, the Cats created a final lead change and went up 31-29. There were many missed chances in the hectic moments that followed where neither team could get a foothold. Jump balls, missed shots, missed free throws and turnovers by both teams spoke to the pressure of the moment. Finally, a foul sent the Bobcats to the free throw line and hit one of two to make it a two-possession game with 22 seconds left.
That is the way the Bulldog season came to an end in Burns in their second regional game in two days. The Lady Dogs missed their last five shots and went 0-8 from the perimeter while Hot Springs County shot 63% from the field and had the game of their lives.
Wheatland ends the season with a 6-17 record and look to work hard during the summer to fill the holes and move forward with many girls now with varsity experience under their belts.
Otero led the team in scoring with 12, Lily Nichols added six, Brinley Heimsoth had 3 and Laynie Goertz, Grace Battershell, Camryn Mickelsen and Eve Peasley who played her final game in a Lady Bulldog uniform each had two points apiece.
“I want to give a shout out to our senior this year, Eve,” said Lady Bulldog coach Michelle Coplen. “She was great to have in our program and we will all miss her. Unfortunately, Thermopolis was able to hit some big 3's towards the end of the game which got them the lead. Regionals was a big learning experience for the program this year and I know it has lit a fire for us to return next year. Finally, thanks to all that supported and cheered on the Lady Bulldog Basketball program this season.”