The Little Snake River Valley School (Wyo.) boys basketball squad overcame a tepid start Thursday before finding its footing and dismissing the Upton Bison, 68-31, in the first round of the 1A state championships.
Although the team never trailed by more than two points, LSRV faced an unknown opponent inside an intimidating arena that for the first few minutes of play distracted the Rattlers’ offense.
“I think it took us a while to get going, it seemed like we weren’t there,” head coach Paul Prestrud said. “I think it takes a while to get used to playing on this floor. But then once we did, we picked up our defense (and) did things that we wanted to.”
By the end of the first quarter, Prestrud’s squad had found its range and ran up a 17-6 lead, which is when the Casper Events Center started to look a lot like the Rattlers’ home Snake Pit.
Defensive rebounds and steals helped the Rattlers go on a 19-point run before the Bison scored a point.
Prestrud said the defensive efforts of Conner Lee, Daniel Wille and Grayson Lee helped inspire the Rattler offense and forced Upton into rash decisions.
“They were frustrated,” Prestrud said of the Bison. “They couldn’t get it to their big guys. They ended up taking some bad shots and we got rebounds.”
The Rattlers maintained 20- and 30-point leads against the Bison throughout the second half without once sinking a 3-point shot.
“We’re just quick and they (the Rattler players) make layups when they want to start making them,” Prestrud said.
Sean Rietveld and Miles Englehart were the top scorers for LSRV on Thursday, each finishing with 15 points.
Rietveld brought down 10 rebounds and Englehart had six. Rex Stanley added 12 points, while Wille, Garrett Grieve and Lee scored six.
LSRV, the West’s No. 2 seed, entered the first round after having lost its first game of the year Feb. 26 in the finals of the 1A west regional tournament.
As his coach speculated, Rietveld said that result lent focus to the practices leading up to the state championships.
“We went to practice this week with intensity,” Rietveld said. “We did everything we could — we stayed a little later than normal, we ran harder. Our goal was just to come in and get the first game out of the way, like we did.”
Today, LSRV faces West No. 4 Cokeville in the semifinals. It will be the third time the squads have met this season.
“It’s always tough to beat a team three times,” Prestrud said. “They’re out to get us, I’m sure they are.”
After observing Cokeville at the regional tournament, Rietveld said he anticipates an invigorating contest.
“I would admit they’re probably at their peak,” he said. “But, if we go out there and play like we’re supposed to play and just do what we’re supposed to do, we shouldn’t have any problems.”
The Rattlers and Panthers are scheduled to play at 7:30 p.m. today at Casper College.
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