Lady Cyclones come up short in title defense

CASPER – The stage was set for a rematch of last season’s state championship and the last two regional championship games.

In previous matchups, Southeast was 3-0 against the Upton Lady Bobcats.

Unfortunately, this year’s Class 1A state championship game ended with a 59-54 Southeast loss.

The 59 points which the Lady Cyclones gave up in the championship was a season high. Southeast gave up an average of 25.4 points a game this season – the best in Class 1A.

“I tell my girls all the time, defense and free throws will win you championships,” Southeast coach Jennifer Scheer said. “We were a little short on both ends of those tonight. We weren’t ourselves. We were doing things uncharacteristically out of rotation and out of norm. It just wasn’t Southeast basketball.”

The Lady Cyclones looked to run away with the game early.

Buckets from seniors Shelby Ekwall, Kealy Carson, Sydney Anderson and Brenna Herring, along with a 3-pointer from junior Baylie Booth gave Southeast an 11-4 advantage.

However, that’s when things changed.

Upton scored the next 11 points, spanning into the second quarter, taking a 15-11 lead.

“We lost our focus and got careless with the basketball a few times,” Scheer said. “We got beat defensively two or three times down the floor. Simple little errors and tiny details cost us. You have to hand it to Upton. That’s a good basketball team, and they made us pay for those mistakes.”

Herring attempted to slow the run with 7:26 left in the half with a pair of free throws, but the Lady Bobcats continued to maintain the advantage.

With 5:42 left in the quarter, Booth drew the Lady Cyclones within three at 20-17.

It proved to be as close as Southeast came the remainder of the game.

With a six-point lead at half, Upton started to pull away further in the third quarter.

Heading to the fourth, the Lady Bobcat lead was 40-30. It reached its largest point midway through the fourth as Upton’s lead was 49-37.

Herring and Carson combined for the next seven points as Southeast started to chip away at the deficit.

However, Southeast got no closer than five in the final seconds of the game.

Upton shot 51.2% for the game, while the Lady Cyclones shot 43.8%. 

Herring led all scorers with 16 points, to go along with eight rebounds. Carson added 14, while Booth chipped in eight. Ekwall had seven.

Getting to the state championship game, Southeast rolled to wins in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds by 24 points each.

During Thursday’s opening round game, the Lady Cyclones jumped on the Encampment Lady Tigers early.

Southeast gave up only one field goal in the first quarter, racing out to a 14-3 lead.

“Thursday night, we played in spurts a little bit,” Scheer said. “Encampment has a big girl who is pretty talented inside, but I thought we handled her well. We controlled their game and made them slow it down quite a bit.”

In the spurts where things weren’t going well, it was due to Southeast’s inability to make shots.

The Lady Cyclones shot 23.5% in the first half compared to 45% in the second half.

“We didn’t shoot the ball real well Thursday night, but we had some tremendous looks,” Scheer said. “It wasn’t for the lack of looks. The first night in the Events Center is always tough. Other than that, our defense held its own, and we did what we needed to do to control them.”

Southeast gave up no more than seven points in any quarter in the win.

Anderson led the team with a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Carson also added 10 points. Herring chipped in nine.

The win moved the Lady Cyclones into the semifinal game against the Burlington Huskies.

Southeast jumped on Burlington early and often en route to a 53-29 victory.

“It was a really good game,” Scheer said. “The kids played really well. Our defense was our normal defense. We played tremendous team basketball.”

The Lady Cyclones led 17-6 after one and 27-13 at half. Southeast added 20 more points in the third quarter before capping it with six in the fourth.

Southeast took advantage of 15 Burlington turnovers, resulting in 16 points for the Lady Cyclones. Southeast also shot 44.7% for the game, including a blistering 66.7% in the second half.

“We were getting some good looks, working the ball inside and outside,” Scheer said. “We took advantage of their mistakes and capitalized off Burlington’s mistakes. We consistently did what we do.”

The win set the stage for a rematch of last season’s state championship game and the previous week’s regional championship game.

The season-ending loss to Upton marks the career of four Lady Cyclones – Anderson, Herring, Ekwall and Carson.

Following the game, Scheer couldn’t find the words to describe what the four seniors have meant to the Lady Cyclone team over the past four years, fighting back tears.

Southeast girls ended the season with a 26-3 record.

“It was a good season. We played maybe the toughest team in 3A basketball as tough as anyone could ask for,” Scheer said. “Our young kids grew and learned a lot. I have a tremendous group of freshmen who have made leaps and bounds with us this year. They have improved so much, it’s hard to put that into words too. How we keep this going is the next kids have to step up. It’ll be their turn next year. Twelve months from now, I hope we are standing in the same place on the same day.”