It was all Montana in the 43rd annual Wyoming-Montana All-Star Basketball series, but that doesn’t take anything away from efforts of the Evanston talent representated on the Wyoming team. Recently-graduated Evanston High School seniors Emmery Wagstaff, Chase Critchfield and Braxton Hiatt were selected to teams comprised of Wyoming’s 10 best basketball players, earning the right to square off with the Big Sky State’s top 10 on the hardwood, June 8-9. Games are played each year in Sheridan on Friday and in Billings, Montana, on Saturday.
On the guys’ side, the Montana all-star team defeated their Equality State neighbors, 76-63, in Sheridan, and 95-80 in Billings.
The victories were much more lop-sided in the girl’s contests, with Montana sweeping Wyoming, 61-37 and 84-35 in back-to-back 5:30 p.m. tip-offs.
Emmery Wagstaff came to play. She scored 18 of her team’s 72 points to lead the Wyoming team in the two contests. But that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. She now holds the all-time Lady Red Devil single-season scoring record, averaging 19.3 points per game in her senior campaign.
“She must have been averaging more than 20 points per game heading into conference play,” Lady Red Devil basketball coach Jeremy Fessler recently told the Herald.
“Just a flat-out scorer,” the coach added.
Wagstaff eclipsed 30 points in two contests this season past and netted in the upper-twenties on numerous occasions. Her 32-point performance against Thunder Basin was not only a career and team best, but set a single-game school record, besting Ashley Davis’ 30-point output in 2008.
“I can count on one hand how many times when I thought she should have passed instead of looking to score this past season,” Fessler said, citing Wagstaff’s growth as an all-around player, as scoring wasn’t all in which she exceled. The Lady Red Devil also averaged 5.4 rebounds, 3.1 steals and a pair of assists each time out.
Wagstaff is a three-time all-state selection in basketball and was also an all-state volleyball player in her senior season.
“She is certainly one of the best to ever come out of Evanston High School,” Fessler affirmed.
Wagstaff told the Herald the experience was rewarding.
“It was really fun to meet new people and play alongside others I had competed against,” Wagstaff said.
Six of her nine all-star teammates came from Wyoming’s Class 4A division, including fellow all-state selections Madison Vinich and Kristy Dick of conference rivals, Kelly Walsh and Natrona County, respectively.
“Everyone was so talented and it was so fun to play with teammates who have the same level of understanding basketball that I do,” Wagstaff added.
Of the dominant victories by the Montana all-stars over Wyoming, Wagstaff summed it up this way — “They were really quick and scored a lot of their points in transistion in the first game, while we weren’t converting on our easy baskets. In the second game, they just really caught fire early and never let up.”
Wagstaff will continue her basketball career at Utah State Eastern in Price as a member of the Golden Eagles. In fact, after arriving home from Sheridan and Billings with her family on Sunday evening, Wagstaff was heading to Price to take part in a camp the very next day. She considers the recent competition a good tune-up for her upcoming college hoops season.
“My dad and I talked about that,” she said. “We agreed that facing that level of competion from the Montana team and that kind of team speed will help prepare me for my college career.”
Wagstaff is strongly considering pursuing a degree in dental hygiene, following in her mother’s foosteps.
Prior to donning her Golden Eagle uniform, she will have the opportunity to represent her high school and community one last time as a member of the south squad in the Wyoming Coaches Association All-Star Saturday competition in Casper on July 15. The match-up pits the best graduated seniors from southern Wyoming against their northerly counterparts. Wagstaff will be joined by two of her Lady Red Devil teammates, Taylor Groll and Hailey Barker, who were also named to the south team.