The Burlington Husky boys basketball squad brought home some hardware over the weekend as they captured the 1A State Consolation Championship title at the Class 1A State Basketball Tournament in Casper.
The Huskies opened up tournament play by falling to 1A East Regional Champion, the Upton Bobcats, 76-33. Burlington trailed 40-14 at halftime and were outscored 36-19 in the second half.
Dontae Garza poured in 18 points to lead the Huskies and grabbed four rebounds. Tanner Jones scored 7 points and pulled down three rebounds. Jacob Cook contributed 3 points, grabbed three boards and had four assists.
“The first game was really tough for us,” coach Matt Davidson said. “Both teams started out tentatively then the baskets started falling for Upton and ours didn’t. Our mental focus deteriorated, which took our confidence and ability to execute offensively and defensively.
“Upton played great pressure defense. They also handled the ball really well. We couldn’t contain them. We didn’t reach any of our team goals for this contest.”
After the tough loss, Davidson said the team had a big decision to make.
“We could recover and finish on a positive note or give up,” the coach said. “I was proud of boys for picking themselves back up and fighting on.”
Friday, Burlington faced Hanna-Elk Mountain for a spot in the consolation championship game. The Huskies regrouped and defeated the Miners 66-52. Burlington led 44-25 at intermission. In the second half, H.E.M. outscored the Huskies 27-22 but Burlington kept the big lead they built in the first half and won by 14.
Garza led the Husky attack with 25 points and pulled down 18 rebounds for a double-double. He also had 12 deflections, five blocks and four assists. Jarom Davidson added 12 points, grabbed four rebounds, had two assists and five deflections.
Jones scored 9 points for Burlington and snared four boards. Cook added 8 points, grabbed five boards, had two blocks and five deflections. Ian Nelson contributed 8 points and grabbed three boards. Eric Davidson had two points, two assists and six deflections.
“Our nerves were much better in this contest,” Davidson said. “We played hard and well. The defense was much more effective. We generated turnovers and transition scoring opportunities. The second quarter was really strong for us. We outscored them 27-11. As shots went in, our confidence grew. It was the opposite of Thursday’s experience. We out rebounded them 41-25. This was a good win for us after a discouraging first game.”
The win propelled Burlington into the State Consolation championship game against the Kaycee Buckaroos. The Huskies avenged their loss from last year’s state championship game and defeated Kaycee 63-50 to win the consolation title.
Burlington led the Buckaroos 36-17 at halftime. In the second, Kaycee outscored Burlington 33-27 but the Huskies held on to win by 13.
Garza finished his career as a Husky with 31 points, 15 deflections, nine rebounds, two assists, three steals and two blocks.
“It was an impressive showing,” Davidson said about Garza’s performance.
Jones also finished his career as a Husky on a positive note with 13 points, five boards and two steals. Cook also finished his last game as a Husky with 9 points, four rebounds, eight assists and three steals.
“He was a productive floor leader,” Davidson said.
The Huskies finished the season 19-7.
The Kaycee game was the last game for seniors Garza, Jones, Cook, Ammon Bullinger, Tanner Trujillo and Jacob Stanworth. Each of the seniors gave some thoughts and what it was like to be a husky basketball player and play for coach Davidson.
“It’s been fun,” Garza said. “Matt is a phenomenal coach. I’ve always had great teammates. It’s pretty crazy that I got to compete in three state championships in four years.”
“It was great,” Stanworth said. “I got to play with some cool classmates.”
“It’s been a lot of fun and a good experience,” Jones said.
“I’ve learned a lot from our head coach,” Bullinger said. “I learned a lot from him about the game of basketball and most importantly life lessons. It’s been a lot of fun with the teammates I had, and it’s been a fun experience.
“It’s been a good experience,” Trujillo said. “When I was in Utah, I didn’t associate with basketball. When I got to Burlington, Matt showed me the fundamentals and just helped me progress from there.”
“It’s been fun,” Cook said. “He’s a really good coach. It seems like he gets the best out of everyone. He has a lot of experience so he helps everyone out individually and as a team to compete at the highest level.”
“Our seniors Jacob Cook, Dontae Garza, Tanner Jones, Ammon Bullinger, Tanner Trujillo and Jacob Stanworth will be missed,” Davidson said. “They are all great young men and have contributed to our program’s success.”
Looking ahead to next season. Davidson sees some great potential in his team.
“We saw teams at State that were skilled ball handlers, shooters and defenders,” the coach said. “To compete with them, we will need our underclassmen to put in time in the offseason. New varsity starters will need to be prepared to fill the open slots.”
Davidson said the team would like to thank their families, fans, athletic director, custodians and the bus driver for their support this season.
By Sam Smith