A goal that once seemed unfathomable is now within reach for the Burlington Huskies.
Just three wins separate Coach Matt Davidson and his Huskies from an unprecedented fifth consecutive state championship after they returned home from Lander last weekend with the Class 1A West Regional title.
It didn’t come easily, as the margin of victor was nine points or less in all three contests. The Huskies knocked off Snake River 68-64 in their opener, Saratoga 71-62 in the semis and Farson-Eden 63-61 in double overtime to claim the regional crown.
The Little Snake River game wasn’t as close as the final score suggests. While the Huskies weren’t at the top of their game, they led at one point by as many as 20 before Riggen Myers, an LSR guard, went on a tear, nailing four deep 3s. Little Snake River outscored the Huskies 25-12 in the fourth quarter alone.
“Defensively, we played a solid first half limiting their scoring opportunities. Then I believe with our large lead, mentally we lost some focus and allowed their offense to become much more efficient,”
“They had no answer for Dallin Davidson down low. Our guys fed him the ball, and he took it to the hole,” said Davidson.
Davidson finished with 31 points.
Dontae Garza followed with 19 points. Torey Wardell and Jacob Cook each put in five. Tallon Wiles had four, and Derec Davidson and Tanner Jones put in two.
The Huskies outrebounded the Rattlers by 10 — Dallin Davidson led with 10, followed by Dontae Garza with nine — and had only 13 turnovers, “which was good against this quick, aggressive team,” Coach Davidson said.
Next up was Saratoga, “an improved team since we saw them the first weekend of play,” Davidson said. “They passed and shot well. They defended and rebounded. They were fundamentally sound. It was a competitive game.”
“Our defense was pretty consistent in this one. Tallon Wiles held their best player to four points in the first half with some tight man defense. We had good help rotation to support Tallon’s efforts.”
“Offensively, we started slow but build steam. Torey Wardell had a streak where he put down 11 points in a row for us which propelled us to a halftime lead and energized our team,” said Davidson. Wardell finished with 28, followed by Dallin Davidson with 21, Dontae Garza 14, Jacob Cook and Tallon Wiles with four apiece and Tanner Jones with three.
Rebounding again factored into the win, as Burlington outrebounded their opponents 38-21.
Dallin Davidson had 12, Dontae Garza nine, Torey Wardell six, Tallon Wiles five, Tanner Jones three, Jacob Cook two and Derec Davidson one.
Jacob Cook and Torey Wardell each had four assists.
Burlington’s two-point, double-overtime win over Farson-Eden was “a championship classic,” according to Davidson. “Farson is a great team with a good balance of quality players. It was a battle of bigs in the middle the entire contest. We tried to limit entry passes to their posts and tried to feed our posts. Over the course of the game, this took its toll. Their two posts fouled out and Dallin Davidson fouled out for us.”
Burlington led 26-19 at the half, but saw Farson-Eden rally in the third quarter.
In the end, it was decided by free throws. While Farson-Eden didn’t make a single one, 10 of Burlington’s 15 points in the two overtimes were scored from the line.
“We had some great play from Derec Davidson, Jarom Davidson, Jacob Cook and Tanner Jones in this game which put us in a position to win. Derec hit the biggest shot of his season in the second overtime. He also was 3 for 4 on free throws. Jarom had to sub when Dallin Davidson fouled out and took over the middle of our zone. He helped foul out their bigs which was huge. Jacob Cook showed lots of poise handling the ball during this high pressure time. Tanner Jones was effective for us defensively when he rotated in.
Dallin Davidson paced the Huskies with 20 points, followed by Dontae Garza with 17, Torey Wardell with nine, Derec Davidson six, Jacob Cook and Tallon Wiles with five apiece and Jarom Davidson with one.
Dontae Garza had 13 rebounds. Dallin Davidson was next with five, followed by Derec Davidson with four, Jacob Cook and Tanner Jones with three.
Dontae Garza also had five steals and five blocks.
“We felt very fortunate to come away with a win in this one,” said Davidson. “The tournament was very competitive. The Southwest Conference is much stronger than our conference. The teams from there are all very solid. We had to fight hard to compete with them.
“We had great leadership from Torey Wardell, Dallin Davidson, and Dontae Garza. They were impactful in each game. But every other player made contributions that allowed us to succeed. Tallon Wiles played great defensively every game. He was asked to slow down the best opponents. Jacob Cook helped us transition the ball under strong pressure. Tanner Jones was efficient offensively and defensively in all three games. Derec Davidson played his best game of his career in the championship game. He stepped up in a big way. Jarom Davidson played great defense when we needed him. All three were team wins for us.”
The Huskies will begin their drive for five with a 1:30 p.m. game against Rock River today at the Casper Events Center. Sharing their side of the bracket are Encampment and Hanna-Elk Mountain.
Health was a concern as the week began. Davidson said Tallon Wiles and Torey Wardell were both dealing with ankle sprains. Wiles had also required stitches after the regional tournament.
by Nathan Oster