SHERIDAN, Wyo. — Wes Keller, head coach of the Montana girls all-stars, figured his team would have to withstand some difficulties at the outset of Saturday’s matchup with its rivals from Wyoming.
“We talked about it before the game. It’s their home state,” Keller said. “They’re going to come out and try to put it to you early and we’ve got to weather the storm.”
Montana did more than just tolerate Wyoming’s early pressure, and eventually turned the tables on the way to an 89-46 rout in the Midland Roundtable Montana-Wyoming All-Star Series girls basketball game at the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome.
Wyoming led by as many as nine points but the tide turned when Kalispell Glacier’s Kali Gulick intercepted an inbound pass, hit a 3-pointer while being fouled, then made the ensuing free throw to end the quarter with a dramatic four-point boost.
From there it was all Montana. The Treasure State all-stars outscored Wyoming 75-29 in the final three quarters. It came on the heels of an 84-66 victory over Wyoming on Friday in Billings.
The win was Montana’s seventh in a row in the 23-year-old series and raised its overall advantage over Wyoming to 33-13.
Gulik’s play gave Montana an obvious lift.
“That was a huge turning point. That really bumped up our momentum and pushed us into the second quarter,” said Three Forks’ Kyle Olson, who led all scorers with 17 points. “I’ve played a lot of basketball and very rarely have I seen a four-point play.”
Olson’s seen her share of 3s, though, and the Carroll College-bound guard hit four of Montana’s 11 shots from downtown. Billings West’s Shayla Montague got hot in the second half after struggling early, and her back-to-back 3s in the third quarter gave the Treasure Staters a 51-31 advantage.
Montague finished with 12 points. West twins TyLee and TyRaa Manuel combined for 25. Froid-Lake’s Mackenzie Dethman added 11 points for Montana.
Before Gulick’s four-point play, Montana couldn’t get untracked from the field. But the shots eventually started to fall.
“We got our nerves out,” Olson said. “I know we had the game (Friday) but it’s still a little weird playing in a new gym. It’s just kind of different. But we started focusing more.”
Alexandria Trosper of Wyoming Indian High School on the Wind River Reservation was named her state’s Ms. Basketball for 2019, and she led the Wyoming all-stars with nine points on Saturday. Kammie Ragsdale of Pine Bluffs and Hailey Anderson of Southeast each added eight.
The Wyoming team, with just eight in uniform this weekend after two players came off the roster, clearly tired out after their first-quarter spurt.
“I really think we ran out of gas, big time,” Wyoming coach Ryan Davis said. “In the first half we weren’t making the mistakes we were making in the second half. You never want to make excuses, but I definitely think not having two kids really hurt us both days.
“But you have to give (Montana) a ton of credit. They shot the living daylights out of the ball. I think they did a great job of going downhill and kicking it to wide-open shooters. We forced it. We made a lot of bonehead mistakes, turnovers and things like that in the second half.”
Said Keller: “I thought we defended, especially in the second, third and fourth quarters. (Friday) night I didn’t think we defended great. Tonight we had kids in stances and playing hard and competing and talking. It was awesome to see in an all-star game.”
Email Greg Rachac at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @gregrachac
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