TORRINGTON – The Southeast High School boys’ basketball team punched their tickets to the state this weekend in Casper as the No. 2 seed after falling to the Upton Bobcats in the 1A East Regional Championship game.
“That’s been our goal all year it to get to that point,” Southeast coach Craig Leithead said. “We fought through a lot of stuff this year.”
On Thursday, Southeast opened the tournament with a 52-17 win in over Midwest.
Tied at two apiece in the early going, Southeast went on a 18-3 run spanning into the middle stages of the second quarter as the Cyclones pushed their lead to 26-8 by halftime.
Coming out of the break, Southeast poured in another 20 points in the third quarter all while holding Midwest to four points, extending their lead to 34 at 46-12 heading into the final quarter.
In all, eight Cyclones scored at least two points in the win, led by freshman Ayden Desmond with 14 points and eight rebounds, while junior Austin Short had 11 points. Sophomore Mason Sorensen tallied six of the team’s 15 steals.
Southeast shot 38% (20-of-53) in the win.
The win advanced the Cyclones into the semifinal round and one win away from punching their ticket to the state tournament.
Southeast met Guernsey-Sunrise for the second time in 10 days in the semifinal round.
The second meeting was similar to the first meeting in Guernsey on Feb. 15, and the end result was the same with the Cyclones coming out on top 48-40.
“That’s a tough Guernsey team. They are scrappy. They get after it, and props to them, they did a good job,” Leithead said. “We didn’t want let them have that one, and I know they came out ready to say ‘hey, we want that too.’ I’m proud of my boys for stepping up to that physicality, not getting stuck in their selves and getting through that.”
Desmond and Sorensen gave Southeast a 4-0 lead, and it was a lead which the Cyclones held for all 32 minutes.
Midway through the second quarter, Short pushed the Southeast lead to double-digits at 21-11, but the Vikings weren’t going to go away quietly.
By the end of the third quarter, Guernsey trimmed the Cyclone lead to seven at 32-25, but Southeast pushed it back to 10 at 36-26 after a pair of free throws from Desmond.
Once again, Guernsey made another push, cutting the lead to 45-40 with less than 20 seconds left on the clock.
That proved to be as close as the Vikings came in the final moments of the game. Southeast went 3-for-4 at the free throw line in the final 15 seconds to secure the win and their ticket to the 1A State Tournament this weekend in Casper.
Desmond led the team with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Sorensen added 11 points. Short had six steals.
“We did a lot better job of rebounding than the last time we played them,” Leithead said. “Credit to Kirk (Kay), Cooper (Larkin), Kyler (Clark) and Desmond. They all got in there and got some key rebounds.”
The win setup a match against the Upton Bobcats – the season-long No. 1-ranked team in the state.
Knowing the team had reached the preseason goal of qualifying for state, Leithead said it didn’t take any pressure off the team going into the championship game.
“It doesn’t take pressure off, necessarily, but we’ll learn a lot about our team tomorrow,” he said. “Upton is a very good team, and they play basketball at a very high level.”
Unfortunately, Southeast only scored four points in the first half in a 71-29 loss to the Bobcats.
Upton countered with 17 points in the first quarter and 23 in the second to take a 40-4 lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, both teams scored 19 points, and in the fourth, Upton added to its lead by six points.
Short led the Cyclones with 12 points, while senior Jake Kramer added eight. Senior Kirk Kay grabbed a team-high four rebounds.
Southeast (12-12) will face Farson-Eden (10-10) at noon Thursday at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper in the opening round of the 1A State Tournament.