East Boys team ends their state title drought

Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 12:08 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - “Two years old,” said senior Kysar Jolley.

“Probably 2 or 3. Yea, yea, young,” responded senior Garet Schlabs.

“I was one,” said junior Cam Hayes.

“I was also one,” mentioned junior Drew Jackson.

“One,” claimed junior Nathan Mirich.

That’s how old each member of East’s starting five was the last time the school won a boy’s state championship.

Despite finishing second last year, the Thunderbirds had a target on their back entering the basketball season.. With speed, size, and experience filling out the roster, they knew they had what it took to get back to the title game.

“I think that we knew we were gonna have really good chemistry because we’ve all been playing together for a while, and then last year we went to the State Championship. So, I think that chemistry just carried over and we knew we were gonna have that with us,” said Drew Jackson.

They picked up a 19-2 record through the regular season, making them the top team in all of 4A. Their journey to the state title seemed to run through Thunder Basin, who the T-Birds played in the 4A East regional championship. The Bolts would win that game, meaning East would take the two seed going into the state tournament.

“That didn’t define us, that wasn’t the State Championship. We knew we would go into the State Championship with the two seed and that was enough for us. We just wanted to get back to the Championship game,” said Cam Hayes.

East was prepared to go against the Bolts in the title game for the second straight year before the first day of the tournament flipped the script. Both number one seeds fell, leaving East as the highest ranked team remaining. While what they thought would happen changed drastically, the T-Birds kept plenty of motivation and confidence as they make their way towards the big game.

“It motivated us a lot. I couldn’t handle losing another one, making it all the way there and not winning it. Watching Thunder Basin celebrate after the one last year was terrible and we knew that we wanted to be on the other side of that this year,” recalled Kysar Jolley.

“We were confident that we should be there, and so we thought that and that was kind of the motto as well. I don’t think there was much pressure at all, I just think we knew we should be there and that we just had to take care of business,” Garet Schlabs said.

East punched their ticket into the title game once more, and would have a familiar foe to gameplan for. The Laramie Plainsmen stood against them, a team they’d met three times earlier in the year.

“You know, when you have to beat a really good team four times, that’s always scary. We knew the ball could bounce either way either time we played them the last couple times, and they’re a good shooting team, so we knew we would have to play a great game in order to win,” said head coach Rusty Horsley.

With four players scoring double digits, the Thunderbirds cut down the nets won the championship game 68-59.

Almost 20 years of drought was finally broken.

“It felt amazing. We were kind of surprised that we ended up playing Laramie for a fourth time. We played so many teams for like a fourth time. They were definitely playing well at the end of the season, and it was definitely amazing that we won,” said Nathan Mirich.