The following is an expanded version of a piece I penned for the Tuesday 10 March 2015 Uinta County Herald.
Good morning class! Welcome to Professor Harreld's High School Hoops Handicapping 101. Our textbook? The aggregate collection comprising the bodies of work of a half-dozen each boys and girls prep basketball teams. Our crystal ball’s target? The 2015 Wyoming 4A West basketball tournaments.
And though we remain the Equality State, as an Atlanta native and William & Mary alumnus, this son-of-the-South still prefers the time-honored tradition of ladies first.
_ The 4A West: Six schools. Five cities. Four counties. Three winning conference marks. Two byes. But only one Natrona.
When Doug Diehl's Fillies tip-off Friday against the winner of the Riverton-Evanston four-five game, the Pretty Ponies will hoop with the swag of a program that last lost a conference game on 22 January 2011. Ironically, that 45-42 defeat came in Casper at the since-demolished Orange Dungeon to Evanston. Might that be why Coach Diehl said yes when former EHS point guard Austin Kofoed asked Doug for permission to marry his daughter Taylor?
Regardless, the Orange Empire isn't likely to succumb to any barbarians-in-the-paint this weekend at Red Devils Gymnasium. Led by 6'2” junior post Emily Robertson and dead-eye small forward Katie Mayhue, the Fillies should stampede through Uinta County as easily as Secretariat handled his inferior competition at the 1973 Belmont Stakes.
Regional theme song: Queen's “We Are the Champions”.
But every Secretariat has its Sham, and in 2015, the only 4A West-five that one soberly (Yes, visitors, this, still, is Wyoming: but don't convey your keg three miles west!) might argue could give Natrona a game would be Darcy Bath's Tigresses. Senior floor general Stevie Hill has the ball-handling chops to thwart the vaunted Fillie full-court press, and if sophomore sharpshooter Maggie Justinak and senior post Mariah Smith both bring their A-games to the 82930, the Tabbies might take their pound (or two) of horse flesh before becoming yet another trophy on the wall of Diehl's title-hunting cabin. Shower some praise on Bath: Rock Springs is a solid squad and a dark horse candidate for a Final Four berth in Casper.
Regional theme song: Aretha Franklin's “Respect”.
The Women of Troy
If you can't earn a Thursday bye, the next best thing is to cry yourself a date with Green River in the three-six game. Kelly Walsh has a stacked interior one-two senior-punch in athletic 5'10” power forward Olivia L'Ami and true post 6'1” Sofia Hof. But the Greeks' weekend will hinge on the postseason varsity basketball-baptism of two freshmen: point guard Hallie Jimenez and small forward Maddie Vinich.
If this pair plays beyond its years, we're looking at an all-Casper final—326 miles from home.
Regional theme song: Gary Puckett & The Union Gap's “Young Girl”.
_ Lifelong North Carolina fan Ron Porter, like all Tarheel faithful, is still mourning the loss of Dean Smith. But unlike in Chapel Hill, where the Baby Blue simply reload with a stable of annual one-and-dones, a dark cloud of a dearth of talent hovers over the Lady Wolverines in 2016. But while next season looks bleak, the moment may be right for exceedingly rare back-to-back trips to state for the Riverton girls.
Senior point Camey Fegler plays with more moxie than most of her male counterparts and off-guard Savannah Salisbury, despite her Milan catwalk 6' frame, handles the orange better than many opposing lead guards. If post Kiley Ridgway provides enough scoring down low and the supporting cast delivers, Coach Porter's smile might light-up brighter than the finished products grown on Tobacco Road. But it's now-or-never for the Fremont Five, a squad facing a dim immediate future.
Regional theme song: The Wallflowers' “One Headlight”.
If You're (not) Scoring at Home