Cyclone boys finish sixth at state

Andrew Towne
Posted 3/8/23

CASPER – For the second straight season, the Southeast High School boys’ basketball team fell in the Class 1A consolation championship game to finish sixth at the state basketball tournament.

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Cyclone boys finish sixth at state


CASPER – For the second straight season, the Southeast High School boys’ basketball team fell in the Class 1A consolation championship game to finish sixth at the state basketball tournament.

The Cyclones went into state as the No. 2 seed, squaring off against the Burlington Huskies, the No. 3 seeded team from the 1A West Regional in a rematch of last season’s consolation championship contest.

It took both teams two-plus minutes to find the bottom of the next in the 7:30 p.m. quarterfinal round matchup. However, in the end, it was the Huskies advancing to the semifinal round with a 47-39 win over the Cyclones.

“That’s a really, really physical team,” Southeast coach Craig Leithead said. “They are tall. They are big. It was a very physical game, but we need to match that physicality. For the most part, we tried to do what we could and get the physicality matched.”

The teams swapped the lead three times in the first three minutes of the game, but midway through the opening quarter, Southeast called a timeout after Burlington had gone on a 7-2 spurt.

With 2:48 left in the first, senior Cooper Larkin drained a 3-pointer to slow the Husky run, but it didn’t slow them down long enough.

Burlington scored four of the final six points of the quarter to push the lead to 13-9 heading into the second quarter.

Two minutes into the second, the Burlington lead reached 18-9, and Southeast senior Austin Short converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to cut the deficit to six.

It proved to be the closest Southeast came to regaining the lead from the Huskies for the remainder of the game.

By halftime, the Burlington lead was 30-18 and midway through the third quarter, the Husky lead reached its largest of the game at 36-21.

In the end, Southeast outscored Burlington 21-17 in the second half, but it wasn’t enough. By the final horn, the Cyclones trimmed the deficit to as few as six at 45-39 before the Huskies buried the game’s final points in the closing seconds.

“The last four minutes of the fourth quarter, we made a nice run. It just started a little too late,” Leithead said.

Southeast shot 36.8% (14-of-38) for the game and were 50% (8-of-16) from the free throw line. 

Sophomore Aydan Desmond led the team with 11 points and seven rebounds, while Short and senior Kyler Clark added 10 points each.

The loss dropped the Cyclones to the consolation side of the bracket and a must-win situation against the Hulett Red Devils.

It was a rematch of the 1A East Regional semifinal round, and like the first meeting a week prior, the Cyclones came away with a 54-31 win.

“We started out a little slow,” Leithead said. “We got things figured out. We slowed ourselves down a little bit and started seeing where our opportunities were. Hulett was on fire in the first half. They made a lot of good shots.”

Hulett came out and jumped on the Cyclones early, taking a 13-4 lead after the first eight minutes.

However, the remainder of the game belonged to Southeast.

The Cyclones held the Red Devils to only 18 points for the remainder of the game, while pouring in 50 points of their own.

Southeast had 15 points in the second and third quarters. Over the final eight minutes of the game, the Cyclones outscored Hulett 20-3 to pull away for the 23-point victory.

“In the second half, we got after it,” Leithead said. “We found our fortitude again, our stick-to-itiveness and got after it. We played like we should have and like we are capable of doing.”

Southeast shot 50% in the second half compared to 30% in the first half.

Desmond led the team with a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Short added 13 points, while Clark chipped in 12.

The win meant the Cyclone season would end on the final day of the state tournament in the fifth-place contest against the Farson-Eden Pronghorns.

A big fourth quarter helped the Pronghorns edge the Cyclones, 57-55.

Over the final eight minutes, Farson-Eden outscored Southeast, 24-16.

In the first three quarters, the Cyclones led much of the game. Southeast raced out to a 9-2 lead, but the Pronghorns made a brief run to end the quarter, cutting the Cyclone lead to 10-8 heading into the second quarter.

Short slowed the Farson-Eden run with five straight points to being the second, but the Pronghorns countered with a 12-2, taking their first lead of the game.

An old-fashioned 3-point play by sophomore Kannon Tippetts and a traditional 3-pointer by Clark tied the game at 23. Clark capped off the half with an offensive rebound and putback off a missed free throw, sending the Cyclones into halftime leading 25-23.

In the third quarter, Southeast used a 10-2 run to push the lead to 39-31 – the largest lead of the game by any team.

Coming out in the fourth quarter, the Pronghorns scored seven straight points to take a 40-39 lead, and it proved to be the third and final lead change of the game.

Southeast struggled to make free throws down the stretch in the two-point loss. For the game, the Cyclones went 13-of-33 from the charity stripe and were outrebounded 46-32.

“One of the things we’ve struggled with late in the season is free throws. That hurts, especially in close games like that one. We were getting the shots. Getting to the free throw line and converting those is a big part.”

Larkin led the team with 17 points, while Desmond had 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Short tossed in 11 points, while Clark had nine.

“I couldn’t be more proud of those guys,” Leithead said. “Austin and Cooper played the entire game against Farson, and we pressed the entire game. It shows incredible fortitude. It was incredible what they were able to do. Kyler gave us some good buckets. They went all out and played as hard as they could.”

The loss also ends the careers of three seniors – Clark, Short and Larkin.

“I started my teaching career when these seniors were seventh graders,” Leithead said. “I’ve seen them all the way through in basketball and in the classroom. It’s a great group of kids. They are a lot of fun to be around. They have a great sense of humor, but when they are ready to get down to work, they get down to work.”

The Cyclone season ends with a 17-10 record.

“With all the hard times we had this year, with the weather, losing Cole for regionals and state, these kids persevered through a lot of adversity, and it’s incredible what they were able to accomplish,” Leithead said. “I just wish we could have finished it a little bit different.”