The Braves went up against three of Wyoming’s 4A schools as part of the 18th annual Flaming Gorge Classic over this past weekend. The program claimed wins over Cheyenne East (64-48) and Sheridan (60-38) and lost to top-rated Gillette (72-57) overall.
“We played better,” said head coach Tony Saras. “I was happy with our defense over the weekend. We rebounded better in all three games against teams that were bigger than us. We had a bad third quarter against Gillette, but that’s just a good team.”
Star Valley’s first tournament game was a 72-57 loss to the Gillette Camels in a match up that has become traditional over the years. The Braves have now played Campbell County 15 times in the tournament dating back to 1998.
The Camels exploded for 27 third quarter points and while the Braves were able to save face on the scoreboard, they never had a chance to cut the lead to single-digits in the second half. The bench was instrumental in the effort however, DJ Sims had a team-high 12 points while Byron Anderson and Paxton Hokanson had six points apiece.
Game two featured the Cheyenne East Thunderbirds, a program which Star Valley has never defeated. The Braves carried a 33-29 lead at the break and pulled away for a convincing 64-48 victory. Shinaver had his best game of the season to that point, scoring 23 points and pulling down seven rebounds. Kohl Battleson finished in double figures with 11 points and seven rebounds. Trace Haderlie also hit double figures for the first time this season with ten points of his own.
On Friday night, Shinaver went up against other leapers within the tournament in the annual Slam Dunk contest. He pulled in two rounds of perfect scores to win the event. His first dunk was a high bounce pass which he took out of the air. The second was a bounce off the backboard for the slam. Video of the two dunks can be found via the Star Valley Independent on Facebook. Battleson also made the finals in the three-point contest.
On Saturday, Shinaver’s hot streak continued as he rolled up 30 points against the Sheridan Broncs in 59-38 win in just three quarters of play. Battleson dominated the back court defensively, racking up eight steals in the contest as the Braves moved their overall record to 4-2 before the Christmas break. The junior varsity claimed wins over Cheyenne Central and Sheridan and lost to Gillette.
“We started zone pressing quite a bit this weekend,” Saras added. “I thought that it was effective against East and Sheridan. We didn’t do any of that against Gillette. We just try and adjust to each team that we’re playing.”
Up next is the first of a slew of home games for Star Valley as they host Bear Lake High School and Evanston on December 27 and 28 respectively. The Bears beat the Braves in the season-opener and the 4A defending champion Red Devils appear to be formidable once again.
True to his preseason statements, Saras has gone deep and often into his bench, a fact that seems to already be paying dividends with nine and sometimes ten players in the scoring column. He hopes things will continue to get even better.
“We’re not all shooting it really well right now, I think we’ll be pretty dangerous when we are,” he added. “It’s fun to go out there and play in front of some big crowds and it will be fun to come home.”
The program will stay at home after the new year with conference games against Lander and Pinedale on January 4 and 5 respectively.