The Thunder Basin High School girls’ basketball team went into the Christmas break ranked No. 4 in the state. The squad is quickly making a claim as perhaps the best in Wyoming, and it is proving that point in South Dakota at the Hoops City Classic tournament this week.
The Bolts are taking on some stellar out-of-state competition and making quite an impression. They took down a pair of South Dakota teams in the last 48 hours and are now riding a five-game win streak while continuing to improve in just the third week of the season.
Thunder Basin 61, Elk Point-Jefferson 39
It took a couple of possessions for the Bolts to find their groove Wednesday morning, and once they did, it was game over for Elk Point-Jefferson High School. They scored the first two buckets of the game thanks to senior Risa Pilon and three quick steals via senior Gabby Mendoza.
The Huskies were quick to bark back. They used three straight buckets, including one from long range, to score seven unanswered points and take a 7-4 advantage as TBHS faced its first deficit of the tournament so far.
That was the only deficit Thunder Basin had to worry about in the game. Sophomore Kambel Cox buried a pair of baskets to give the team its lead back. Then sophomore Attie Jo Westbrook and junior Laney Mccarty got into the scoring frenzy which allowed TBHS to finish on a 12-2 run and take a 16-9 lead after one period.
The Bolts defense was tenacious in the second stanza. Led by senior Joelie Spelts and Mendoza, they held Elk Point-Jefferson to just nine points once again.
The defensive lockdown by Thunder Basin allowed the team to slowly pull away. Short-range jumpers courtesy of Spelts, Mccarty and Mendoza along with a three-pointer by Cox pushed TBHS to a double-up lead over the Huskies with a 36-18 halftime lead.
The break in action did not cool off the Bolts. In fact, they unleashed their best defense of the day in the third quarter where they held Elk Point-Jefferson to a game-low five points.
They used that stinginess to put the game out of reach.
Pilon hit back-to-back baskets, while Westbrook, Mccarty and Spelts swished buckets inside the arc to build a 52-23 going into the final period.
Thunder Basin 61, Mitchell 45
TBHS opened the tournament at the Corn Palace. That’s where the squad, which is now 6-2 for the season, took down Mitchell High School 61-45 to kickstart the road trip Tuesday afternoon.
The Bolts, led by a season-high 19 points by Spelts, traded buckets with MHS early and held on to a 14-9 lead after one quarter. They managed to build on that shortly after thanks to buckets via Mccarty, Cox and Pilon to take a 10-point lead on three occasions, including at 24-14 when sophomore Cena Carlson nailed her first basket with three minutes left in the half.
Mitchell made a short run just before the half to keep things close. The Kernels popped an 8-4 run in the closing minutes to make it 28-22 at intermission.
The Bolts pushed the lead back to double digits in the third period. Mccarty netted a pair of baskets, including one on a steal that she drove the length of the floor for an easy layup. Junior Eagan Clark scored twice in the final minute to preserve a 40-32 lead.
The Kernels made things interesting at the start of the fourth period with a three-pointer that cut the TBHS advantage to 40-35. Fear not, Spelts answered with five straight points and Mccarty scored from short range as Thunder Basin started to pull away at 51-38 with 3:44 left in the game.