Mar 5, 2017 - By Randy Tucker, Staff WriterIt was a brutal battle between the Big Horn Rams and the Wyoming Indian Lady Chiefs in the Class 2-A state championship game Saturday evening in Casper.
The Rams edged the Chiefs, 50-49, in a game with 51 combined fouls and 62 attempted free throws.
The loss ended Wyoming Indian's chance for their first state title since the 2004 season and ends the brilliant careers of Amryn Brown and Morning Gambler.
Brown made the best of her final game with 30 points, but when it came down to the final four seconds and a chance to win the title, the Chiefs were unable to penetrate Big Horn's swarming full-court defense and they fell without taking a final shot.
Brown scored the first four points of the game, but whistles blew early and the game never developed any flow with the plethora of personal fouls called, many for illegal screens by both teams.
Abby Buckingham gave the Rams their first lead on a 3-pointer with 4:21 remaining in the first and Big Horn continued to roll on a 9-0 run to take a 12-6 advantage.
Turnovers were a key for both squads, as well.
Big Horn likes the up tempo game almost as much as the Lady Chiefs, but 18 turnovers on the Rams and 22 on the Lady Chiefs ended any transition-style contest.
The game featured the first all-female officiating crew in state tournament history.
Big Horn clung to a tenuous lead through most of the game, but the Chiefs closed to a single point on consecutive post moves by Alex Trosper.
Trosper was a force until she picked up her fourth and fifth fouls in a nine-second span of the fourth quarter.
In her absence, Brown made repeated acrobatic drives to the basket, but missed 10 free throws out of an attempted 20, any of which could have sent the game into overtime.
On the night the Chiefs were 16of 30 from the line and the Rams barely more efficient, at 16 of 32.
Brown took the ball on almost every possession in the final three minutes, but it was a follow shot by Shoshanna Norris that closed the game to 50-49 with 0:14 remaining.
Big Horn missed both ends of a two-shot free throw and the Big Horn coach did Wyoming Indian a favor, calling two timeouts after Wyoming Indian head coach Aleta Moss had used all of hers.
In the final four seconds, the Chiefs moved the ball quickly to mid-court, but Brown was sandwiched by three Big Horn defenders who slapped the ball away as time expired.
Wyoming Indian 56, Pine Bluffs 49
Wyoming Indian lost their first game back in December in an overtime loss to the Pine Bluffs Hornets in the Burns tournament.
After leading by 10 late in that game, the Chiefs faded in the final minutes.
However, fading was the last thing on their minds on Friday afternoon at the Casper Events Center, when they fought the Hornets in a classic tilt that saw seven lead changes and six ties before the Lady Chiefs emerged with a 56-49 victory.
The win sent the Chiefs to the championship game for the first time since head coach Aleta Moss led Wyoming Indian to back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004.
The Events Center floor presents a challenge for outside shooting with its dark backgrounds that fool the senses and require adjustments to a player's depth perception.
Which was probably the case in the Chiefs' poor first-half shooting, but they warmed up as the game progressed.
Paced by seniors Gambler and Brown,who tallied 15 points each, the Chiefs rolled to a 29-23 lead at the half on a near half-court buzzer-beater by Brown.
The lead evaporated in the third, with Pine Bluffs taking the lead, before Alex Trosper hit a free throw that knotted the game at 40-40.
Another heroic last-second shot, this one by Gambler from 26 feet ended the third with the Chiefs leading, 43-42.
Drives by Brown, jump shots from Gambler and Teanna Trosper and all-important free throws down the stretch from Alex Trosper held the Hornets at bay.
Leading 55-48 after a Pine Bluffs timeout and with Teanna Trosper at the free-throw line and just 0:53 on the clock, the five Wyoming Indian players called out to remind each other to "watch the threes."
Their perimeter defense held and Pine Bluffs hit just one free throw in the final minute, while the Chiefs were five of six at the line at crunch time.
Wyoming Indian 10 8 12 19 - 49
Big Horn 14 11 9 16 - 50
Wyoming Indian - Shoshanna Norris 1 0-0 2, Joely Trosper 4-4 4, Alex Trosper 3 0-4 6, Amryn Brown 10 10-20 30, Morning Gambler 1 (1) 2-2 7. Totals 15 (1) 16-30 49
Big Horn - Emily Blaney 2 (1) 5-15 12, Jill Mayer 1 3-7 5, Abby Buckingham 4 (1) 1-2 12, Aliyn Hutton 1 0-0 2, Britny Hutton 2-2 2, Sydney Schmidt 3 0-0 6, Shyan Davidson 1 0-0 2, Reata Cook 2 5-6 9. Totals 14 (2) 16-32 50
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