CASPER – The Torrington High School boys’ basketball team hadn’t even completely walked into the Casper Events Center when they were told to get back on the bus because the state tournament had been canceled.
The Blazers were scheduled to take on Big Piney in the opening round of the Class 3A Wyoming State Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 12 at noon.
Things quickly changed in the morning.
The Lyman girls opened the tournament with a 46-34 win over Newcastle, and the starting lineups were completed ahead of the Douglas and Pinedale girls’ game before the announcement was made about the tournament being canceled.
“It was quite a unique situation,” THS coach Neil Baker said. “About Douglas or so, I got a call from Mr. (THS Activities Director Dave) Plendl saying they had decided to do no fans.”
Not long after that the status of the tournament changed again.
“As we walked in the backside door of the Events Center, Ron Laird (Commissioner of the Wyoming High School Activities Association) was walking by at the time and said, ‘I hate to be the one to tell you this, but we just canceled the tournament,’” Baker said.
Only the Torrington coaches and four players even made it through the doors at the Casper Events Center before being redirected to the bus.
After further conversations with Plendl, Baker found out it was the health department telling the WHSAA what to do.
“It was strange. It was a weird situation,” Baker said. “If you lose at regionals, you have your absolution to the season where everyone is sad and you get over it, but if you don’t lose at regionals and you make it state, you expect to play a couple more games. The way it worked; it was just over.”
With the news, came a lot of disbelief from the Blazer squad.
“I expected a little more anger, but it was like we couldn’t believe it. There was a look of disbelief on the faces of a bunch of kids,” Baker said. “I heard a couple kids say, ‘It feels like all that hard work last week was for nothing.’”
The Blazers had upset Douglas and Wheatland to punch their ticket to last weekend’s state tournament as the No. 2 seed.
“When we were 0-4 and struggling in December, not a lot of people would have predicted us beating a 21-4 Wheatland to qualify for the state tournament. Those people weren’t at practice every day, seeing the kids work,” Baker said. “I feel bad for all the kids, especially the seniors as it was their last shot. They were such a big part of this year’s team.”
Torrington was slated to face a Big Piney team which had an 18-7 record, but the Blazers had felt confident about the matchup.
“We felt really good about our draw with Big Piney,” Baker said. “They obviously had a good record at 18-7, but they didn’t have any wins against, what I would call, really good teams. Size-wise and personnel, we matched up pretty well.”
The team had its eyes set on a trip to the state semifinal round.
“Then if you get to the semifinals with as much youth as we had this year, it was going to be quite the accomplishment,” Baker said. “I would like to think our kids would have gotten there.”
The Blazer season ended with a 9-13 record.
“Even though we didn’t have a great record – 13 losses are more than you want to have – there were only two of those loses that weren’t real tight, competitive games,” Baker said. “We competed well with almost everybody. I think that will benefit our kids moving forward. We are excited about the future.”