The Burlington Husky boys basketball squad faced tough competition at the 1A West Regional Tournament in Lander. The Huskies went 2-2 at the three-day tournament and placed fourth to qualify for State this weekend in Casper.
“The Regional Tournament was tough,” coach Matt Davidson said. “The teams from the southwest conference were definitely stronger than those in our northwest conference. We were not used to playing against the pressure defense and quick paced offenses.”
The number-one seeded Huskies began tournament play by defeating Little Snake River 54-48. Burlington led 12-8 after one and 24-18 at halftime. In the second half, the Huskies led 36-34 after three and outscored the Rattlers 18-14 in the final quarter to win by six.
“We shot 54 percent from the floor and 70 percent from the free throw line,” Davidson said. “We outrebounded them 35 to 22, which made a huge impact on the game. We also had 60 deflections, which shows that our defense was active. We had 24 turnovers because of some nerves in that first game.
“Little Snake River ended their regular season with their strongest play. They upset Saratoga twice and Cokeville once to earn a spot in the regional tournament. They are a scrappy team that loves to run and gun.
Davidson said the Huskies had some trouble with Little Snake River’s top scores, who shot the ball 38 times and scored 28 points.
“Often he was fouled on dribble penetration and had half of his points from free throws. It was a back and forth game. Luckily, we outscored them by six in the first half, which was the difference in the contest.”
With the win, the Huskies met eventual champion, the Farson-Eden Pronghorns, in the semifinals. Burlington fell to Farson 49-28. The Huskies never led in the game as they trailed 20-14 at halftime and were outscored 29-14 in the second half.
The Huskies were outrebounded 27-20 and shot nine percent from behind the arc.
“We didn’t compete well in this one,” Davidson said. “We played tight and it showed defensively and offensively. Our overall shooting percent was 23 percent for the game. This is the lowest of the season. We just couldn’t get shots to fall. Farson’s defense was intense and frustrated our offensive efforts.
With the tough loss, the Huskies met the St. Stephens Eagles with the winner punching a ticket to State. The Huskies came out strong in the first half and led 17-6 after one and 33-18 at the intermission, in the third quarter, Burlington was outscored by the Eagles 16-3 in the third but returned the favor by outscoring St. Stephens 22-11 in the fourth to win 58-45 and qualify for State.
The Huskies outrebounded the Eagles 33-21 and shot 38 percent from the floor to their 34 percent.
“St. Stephens played well,” Davidson said. “It was our third meeting and certainly their strongest effort. They worked the ball effectively and were shooting at a high percentage. We played efficiently and generated a lot of free throws. We finished with 18 out of 29, which made a difference in the game.”
The win boosted Burlington into the third- and fourth-place game and put them up against the Cokeville Panthers. Burlington led 33-31 at halftime but was outscored 24-17 in the second half to fall 55-50 and finish fourth.
Both teams pulled down 22 rebounds, but Burlington was outshot by Cokeville 61 percent to 43 percent.
“The number of shot attempts was about the same but they made more,” Davidson said. “We just needed a few more defensive stops in this one.
“This was our second game on Saturday, and we were tired. The boys played hard and fought in this one. In the end, we had to foul to stop the clock, and Cokeville made the free throws to win. Overall, it was a difficult tournament for us. We did not run on all cylinders very often. Offensively, we struggled to score consistently. We’ll have to step up to compete this week in Casper.
Davidson said they appreciated the support from the fans that went to see the team play in Lander.
“We are glad for a chance to go to the state tournament,” Davidson said.
The Huskies will begin the State Tournament by facing the 2A East Regional Tournament champion Upton today (Thursday) at 1:30 p.m. in Casper. the Upton Bobcats are 23-1 this season with their only loss coming from Cokeville earlier in the season. If Burlington wins, they will meet the winner of the H.E.M/Encampment game Friday at Natrona County High School.
“They are a solid team that has dominated the eastern region,” Davidson said.
By Sam Smith