Evanston hosts 4A West Regional Tourney

Evanston senior Dawson Crofts, left, will be counted on to have a strong regional tournament this weekend if the Red Devils hope to return to the 4A State Tournament in Casper next week. (HERALD PHOTO/Don Cogger)

It’s tournament time for Wyoming high school hoops, with the 4A West Regional Tournament scheduled for this weekend at Evanston High School and Evanston Middle School.

The eight teams that make up the boys’ 4A West Conference are all playing for the right to advance to next week’s 4A State Tournament in Casper; each team will have to win two games to secure their spot at state.

4A Boys Northwest Quadrant Teams

No. 1 Kelly Walsh (14-6, 5-1 in NW Quadrant)

The defending state champs lost a good portion of that title team to graduation, though this year’s incarnation isn’t lacking for talent. After dropping three of its first four games to some of 4A’s heavy hitters, the Trojans won 13 of their next 16, including payback wins against Laramie and Sheridan.

The knock on Kelly Walsh all season has been their tendency to play down to their competition, as evidenced by a 32-26 loss to Rock Springs in January and a 58-47 stumble against Star Valley. But Rock Springs is a better team than their record would indicate, and the Braves are the top team coming out of the Southwest. Until the Trojans are dethroned, they’re still the team to beat.

Kelly Walsh opened the tournament Thursday against Jackson.

Players to watch: Michael Bradley (10.6 pts, 3.3 assists per game); Tyler Pacheco (10 pts, 2.7 rebounds per game); Isaiah Wiggins (9.4 pts, 4 rebounds per game).

No. 2 Rock Springs (9-13, 4-2 in NW Quadrant)

Don’t let their 9-12 record fool you — the Tigers are 4-2 in Northwest Quadrant play, and have knocked off some of the top programs in the state, including a 32-26 win over defending 4A champion Kelly Walsh and perennial 4A East powerhouses Thunder Basin (82-69) and Laramie (50-45).

The Tigers have struggled against teams from the Southwest Quadrant, with losses to Evanston, Star Valley and Green River, whom they played on Thursday.

Players to watch: Justis Reese (14.6 pts, 6.4 rebounds per game); Alan Martinez (10.4 pts, 4.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists per game); Favor Okere (8.3 pts, 5.5 rebounds per game).

No. 3 Cody (7-12, 3-3 in NW Quadrant)

The Broncs are still adjusting to life in Class 4A, though with three more wins this season compared to last, they’re a team that’s proven to be a tough out.

Players to watch: Hunter Hays (12.1 pts, 6.7 rebounds per game); Coy Novakovich (11.1 pts, 3.3 rebounds per game); Luke Talich (9.7 pts, 2.5 rebounds per game).

No. 4 Riverton (4-17, 0-6 in

NW Quadrant)

The Wolverines are another team that gives opponents fits, despite a win-loss record that might indicate otherwise.

Riverton squared off against No. 1 seed Star Valley Thursday to open the tournament.

Players to watch: Aquilo Friday (10.2 pts, 4 rebounds per game); Jared Lucas (9.2 pts, 5 rebounds per game); Lucas Engle (9.1 pts, 7 rebounds per game).

4A Southwest Quadrant Teams

No. 1 Star Valley (13-7, 5-1 in SW Quadrant)

Star Valley got the 2019-20 season off to a shaky start, losing six of its first eight games, though all six losses were to out-of-state competition.

The Braves opened 4A West Conference play with a 42-41 loss to host Evanston last month, and have since run the table, winning six straight games to end the season, all against 4A West teams.

Star Valley opened the 4A West Regional Tournament Thursday against No. 4 Riverton.

Players to watch: Taylor Horsley (18.4 pts, 2.9 assists per game); Chase Merrell (11 pts, 4.5 rebounds per game); Hazen Erickson (9.3 pts, 4.4 rebounds per game).

No. 2 Evanston (9-13, 5-1 in  SW Quadrant)

The Red Devils overcame an 0-11 start to the season to become the surprise team in 4A, winning nine of its next 11 games, including season sweeps over Southwest Quadrant rivals Green River and Jackson.

Road losses to Kelly Walsh and Star Valley were the only blemishes during that 11-game stretch, and when this team is hot, they’ve proven they can play with anyone.

Players to watch: Mason Ellingford (14 pts, 8.6 rebounds per game); Dawson Crofts (13.9 pts, 3.3 rebounds per game); David Baxter (7.2 pts, 1.8 rebounds per game).

No. 3 Green River (7-15, 2-4 in SW Quadrant)

The Wolves won four of their final seven games of the season, including three wins against 4A Northwest Quadrant teams (Rock Springs, Cody, Riverton).

In the second round of quadrant games, Green River lost to Evanston and Rock Springs by a combined five points; the Wolves are a dangerous team when they get rolling, and about as physical as any team in the state, regardless of classification.

Green River opened the regional tournament Thursday against Rock Springs.

Players to watch: Dylan Taylor (14.5 pts, 6.3 rebounds per game); Kolby Ivie (10.7 pts, 4 assists per game); Drew Gibson (9.3 pts, 6 rebounds per game).

No. Jackson (0-20, 0-6 in SW Quadrant)

Despite their record, the Broncs have proven to be a tough out against some of the top teams in 4A. As any coach will tell you, teams are 0-0 going into tournament play; make the mistake of looking past a young but scrappy team like Jackson and you might find yourself on the outside looking in on championship Saturday.

The Broncs played Thursday against Kelly Walsh.

Players to watch: Silas Wotkyns (12.4 pts, 1.9 rebounds per game); Evan Brunner (11.5 pts, 4.2 rebounds per game); Gavin Brunner (5.5 pts, 3.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists per game).

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