Feb 27, 2013 - By Randy Tucker, Sports WriterThe 4:30 p.m. game Thursday at Casper College might be the most physical contest of the opening round of the Class 2-A Girls state basketball tournament. Second-seeded Wind River out of the West and third-place Southeast Goshen from the East have a reputation for fouling, and fouling hard.
The Cyclones enter the game with a 19-5 record, while the Wind River Cougars sport their best season record in 15 years at 20-6.
The two squads never play in the regular season and have a very brief history in state tournament action, but they do have four common opponents this season. Both easily defeated winless Saratoga. Southeast blew out Wright 52-23, while Wind River played the Panthers a bit closer in a 71-57 win.
The Cougars edged Big Horn 60-59 in Sheridan County back in December, while Southeast fell last Friday night to the Rams 37-29 in the regional semifinals.
Wind River is a deep, talented team that struggled with inconsistency late in the season but worked those problems out with an excellent showing in the regional tournament last weekend.
The Cougars last appeared in state tournament play in 2005, when they brought home the consolation trophy.
Their opponent switches between 1-A and 2-A every few seasons, but Southeast Goshen has a tradition of athletic excellence and often draws on students from Torrington who drive the short distance to Yoder to attend school. The Cyclones' best defender this season is freshman Dani McManamen, sister of 2012 Wyoming Basketball Player of the Year Jason McManamen, who played at Torrington.
While she handles defensive chores, Hallie Burkhart and Halie Pragnell take care of the offense.
Pragnell averages 10 points and six rebounds a game, while Burkhart averages nine points per outing.
Shelby Burroughs handles the ball and averages two assists per game.
The Cyclones held opponents to an average of just 30 points per game, while scoring 48 themselves.
For the Cougars, Lexus Brown paces the offense with 11 points per game, but scoring balance is one of Coach Justin Walker's strengths this season. Josee Vogel and Bret Groesbeck each average 10 per game, and point guard Amanda C'Bearing tallies nine.
The Cougars have a strong post presence in 5-10 junior Macayla Arrington, who leads the Cougars in rebounding and plays strong defense in the middle of the paint.
Wind River's bench is tough as well, with Shaylee Lonedog scoring six points per game. Tory Thoman and Lydia Johnson both come in at guard and provide defensive pressure and an occasional 3-pointer.
Wind River's long-ball specialist comes in freshman Lexa Wagon, who paces the Cougars in 3-point shooting and also handles the ball well.
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