Bolts take down Tennessee defending state champs

The Thunder Basin High School boys basketball is living up to its top ranking as the Bolts have knocked off some top-tier talent at the Hoops City Classic in South Dakota where they beat the defending state champions of Tennessee. (Photo courtesy of Thunder Basin Boys Basketball Facebook page)

The Thunder Basin High School boys’ basketball team is not taking its No. 1 ranking in Wyoming for granted as it continues to work on getting better. The group is doing just that with two big wins so far at the Hoop City Classic tournament in South Dakota to improve to 7-2 on the year.

The biggest performance of the tournament and the season so far came Wednesday afternoon. The Bolts got huge efforts from every player that touched the floor to beat the Tennessee defending state champions from Houston High School, with a thrilling 57-52 victory.

Three of the team’s seniors led by example with stellar performances. Ryan Baker buried three clutch three-pointers that got the team going early.

Cade Ayers, who is typically a defensive monster for Thunder Basin, showed he can beat teams at the other end of the court as well. He had 10 points, and more importantly, nailed 5 of 6 free-throw attempts in the fourth period when the game was on the line.

The trio of senior standouts also included Deegan Williams. The offensive star swished a game-high 19 points. It was a milestone night for him as he surpassed the 1,000-point mark at TBHS and is school’s all-time leading scorer.

The Bolts faced teams that had more size, but they proved it takes a little more than muscle to be clutch. They proved that teamwork and tenacity can overcome any advantage an opponent might bring to the floor.

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Thunder Basin 61, Mitchell, S.D. 53

The Bolts picked up their second win of the tournament late Tuesday. They had the task of overcoming a solid Mitchell High School squad and its large home crowd but it proved to just another accomplishment as TBHS grabbed a second-quarter lead and never trailed after that in a 61-53 victory.

Mitchell’s best run of the game was a 13-0 run through the late parts of the first quarter that carried Mitchell to a 17-12 lead. Thunder Basin responded with a run of its own to reclaim the lead, this time for good. However, it took some big defensive stops and clutch shooting to make it happen.

The Kernels used a three-pointer in the last minute of the first half to get within six points at 41-35. However, sophomore Ethan Cox nailed the final bucket in the closing seconds to push the lead to 43-35 at halftime.

It was an exchange of baskets from that point on. Mitchell connected on several short-range jumpers and a slam dunk in the third frame, but a three-pointer via Bodie Williams and baskets by Kayden LaFramboise and Deegan Williams did not let MHS get any closer than six points as they protected a 50-44 lead going into the final period.

Deegan Williams opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer and that gave the Bolts all the momentum they needed to put Mitchell away in a final period that was more like a free-throw contest. Bodie Williams and Ryan Baker and Cox also delivered clutch plays in

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Cox was the scoring leader this time around with 18 points, one more than Williams with 17. LaFramboise also reached double digits with 13 points of his own.

First Assembly Christian, Tenn. 48, Thunder Basin 46

The only blemish on Thunder Basin’s trip to South Dakota came in the first game early Tuesday. It was yet another close battle only this time the group came up one basket short in a 48-46 setback against First Assembly Christian School, Tenn.

Deegan Williams was the offensive leader once again with a game-high 23 points. LaFramboise was in double digits again with 11 points.

The Bolts will wrap up the Hoops City Classic with a 6:30 p.m. finale Thursday against Brandon Valley, S.D.