Girls win regional basketball title, and boys take third

State basketball tournament lost to COVID-19


Surrounded by a sea of red, junior Graedyn Buell looks to pass inside during the Pink Game from earlier in the season. The Thunderbirds knocked the highly touted Indians out of the regional tournament, denying them a shot at a state title.

Caitlyn Steen

Basketball is one of the best sports at East High for packing the stands and getting the crowd on their feet. This season was no different. Many sports fans across the state admitted that Cheyenne might be the home to the best basketball teams in the state, and the Thunderbirds proved, week in and week out, both our boys and girls belonged in that conversation.

On the boys’ side, most of the season saw the Central Indians sitting at the #1-ranking, but East held tight to #2. The two teams faced off twice in the regular season, with each team taking a victory.

The Lady Thunderbirds took control of the state early in the season, and they held onto the #1 spot for most of the year, except for one bump against Central.

With the top two teams in both the girl’s and boy’s rankings, the battles between East and Central at the regional tournament were some of the most anticipated games of the year. And no one would have been surprised to see the state title games come down to another round of Blue vs. Red, but first the teams had to survive regionals.

At regionals, the boys’ first game saw them facing Campbell County. In the second quarter, the Camels surprised the Thunderbirds and jumped out ahead by 11 points. Junior Graedyn Buell added 15 points and senior Xavier McCord added 14, but it wasn’t enough as the Camels shocked the T-Birds, 60-51.

In the second game, East eliminated South High, 87-62. While no one was really surprised at that result, the Thunderbirds were stunned to learn they would face Central again in an “out game,” due to the Indian’s surprise loss to Thunder Basin. The most amazing part of the match-up is the loser would fail to qualify for the state tournament.

Senior Xavier McCord scored 30 points to help the T-Birds advance to the consolation championship game and send the Indians home. East took the game, 66-41. McCord also had 10 rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks.

In the final game, the T-Birds stayed on a roll, and sought revenge on the Camels, taking them down, 62-48, and earning a trip to the state tournament.

On the girls’ side, the Lady Thunderbirds found their stride early and rolled the competition. In the first game, they took down Sheridan, and then knocked of Natrona. But, just as the season seemed to go, the Central Lady Indians awaited East in the title game.

In the regional championship, the game once again became a heavyweight fight. Even though Central led, 23-16, at halftime, the second half witnessed East explode for 26 points in the fourth quarter and come away with a 53-50 victory.

Ky Buell paced the T-Birds with 13 points, while Madison Blaney and Boden Liljedahl finished with 10. East also secured the No. 1 seed heading into the state tournament, which tips off Thursday in Casper.

The East teams put in a couple good days of practice and then headed to Casper for the state tournament.

In the first game of the tournament, Central dominated Green River in the 9:00 AM game. And then everything came crashing down.

Around halftime of the first game, the director of WHSAA got on the Event Center microphone and announced, due to coronavirus precautions, they would be clearing the facility of all non-players and team personnel. Less than 30 minutes later, he made a new announcement – they were shutting the tournament down.  The state tournament was cancelled. There would be no champion. All the long hours, hard work, upsets and big wins didn’t matter. COVID-19 was here.