Hail to the Chiefs – 13th State Championship

    Thirteen was the lucky number for Wyoming Indian late Saturday evening at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper. The Chiefs went toe-to-toe with a solid Niobrara County (Lusk) squad for 32 minutes and came home with the 13th state boys‘ basketball championship in school history via a 48-42 win over the Tigers.

    The win was the seventh for Wyoming Indian head coach Craig Ferris, adding to the legendary Alfred Redman’s six state championships.

    “I might have one more state championship than Alfred, but he is the one who built this school and this tradition. Without him, we’re not here talking about this. I’ll never be able to catch him for he did for our youth and this reservation,” Ferris said. “My goal for however long I’m going to coach is to dedicate this to Alfred and Bryan Trosper. Do the things they did in their lives to make a difference.”


    The game wasn’t easy.

    Lusk opened up a quick 7-0 lead on the Chiefs amidst the noise of two partisan crowds of fans that filled the entire lower sections of the Ford Wyoming Center.

    WHSAA officials commented that it was the loudest game played in the arena in many years.

    Darwin Gambler in the paint – h/t Randy Tucker

    The Chiefs had every opportunity to fold in the opening minutes, but they’re used to early runs, and showed great composure in staying with their game plan. That game plan was different than the usually run-and-gun, full court pressure style that is the Wyoming Indian trademark.


    A smothering, switching, half-court defense dominated the game. To Lusk’s credit, they had an equally withering defense. Neither team could score very often, and when they did take a shot, it usually bounced around the rim with bodies flying as both teams worked for rebound position.

    “That’s the most motivated I’ve ever seen them this entire season,” Ferris said. “Every game their intensity went up this season, every game they climbed one more step of the ladder.”

    In a statistical anomaly, the Chiefs had more offensive than defensive rebounds, 22 to 18, that doesn’t happen very often.

    Adriano Brown looks inside – h/t Randy Tucker

    Rebounding was a major factor in Wyoming Indian’s championship and their front line of Darwin Gambler, Kelyn Mountain, Heeyeniniitou Monroe-Black and Adriano Brown tallied 26 of the team’s total rebounds.

    Gambler led the team with a dozen and also in scoring with 15 points.

    After trailing by seven to open the game, the Chiefs battled back to tie the game at 11 on a two-handed tip in above the rim by Mount.


    Lusk’s Quintin Bieri scored on an up-and-under spin as the first-period horn sounded to give the Tigers a 13-11 at the first intermission.

    From the:41 mark of the first period until 1:34 remained in the third quarter there were 10 ties and four lead changes.

    Heeyeniniitou Monroe-Black goes up – h/t Randy Tucker

    Lusk relied on the one-two punch of guard Cory Bruegger and 6-4 Lingle Ft. Laramie transfer Aiden Mattheus for much of the season and they were a force in the early moments of the game.

    Bruegger finished with a dozen points, and Mattheus scored twice in the first couple of minutes of the game, but Wyoming Indian’s defense shut him down after that. On different possessions, Gambler, Mount, Monroe-Black, or Cordell Spoonhunter denied him the ball and prevented entry passes to the post, negating his play.

    The Ford Wyoming floor has never been an easy place to hit outside shots since the days when it was the Casper Events Center. The glaring lights, combined with the darkness behind the baskets create a depth perception problem for long-range shooting and that trend continued Saturday night.

    Cordell Spoonhunter jump shot – h/t Randy Tucker

    Wyoming Indian connected on just one 3-point shot in 18 attempts, that’s just below six percent. It was an angle shot by Monroe-Black.

    Lusk was only marginally better at 15 percent, hitting two of 13 from the promised land. Both of those came on back-to-back possessions late in the first half from sophomore Nathan Miller.

    His first shot clanked in off the backboard from the top of the key, and the second ripped the nets, barely moving them as the ball dropped through from close to the baseline with 1:23 on the second-period clock.

    Parlayne Ferris creates some space – h/t Randy Tucker

    That was it from outside for the Tigers.

    It was just about it entirely for Lusk from the floor.

    Miller, the runner-up in the Class 2-A high jump last spring at the state track meet, scored Lusk’s only basket of the second half on a finger roll with 6:34 left in the third period. From then on, it was only free throws for the Tigers in the face of Wyoming Indian’s intense half-court defense.

    The score was tied and extended by Wyoming Indian close-range shots and Lusk free throws on the odd numbers from 25 to 33, six times in all before a put back by Gambler lifted the Chiefs to a 37-33 advantage at 7:17 of the final period.

    A fourth quarter time out – h/t Randy Tucker

    Frustration on a foul call in the paint led to a technical foul on Wyoming Indian sophomore Parlayne Ferris after he held his arms up too long, indicating he was straight up when officials called the foul.

    Corbin Matthews stepped to the line and in an unorthodox technique that had him set up off center, then rock left to right a few times he hit four straight free throws to tie the game a final time at 37-37.

    Ferris gathered his team to say, “OK guys, this is a momentum shifter, for either them or us.”

    The momentum went to the Chiefs.

    Gambler scored on another follow shot to break the tie and Monroe-Black ripped the nets on a baseline trey on the Chief’s only 3-point shot of the night to bump the lead to five.

    Lusk packed into a tight zone trying to stop Wyoming Indian’s inside game. With the lead, Ferris pulled the ball out.

    Darian Augustine calls for Lusk to defend him – h/t Randy Tucker

    “Make them come out and guard us, make them come out of their zone and come get us,” Ferris said.

    Darian Augustine took the instruction to heart, setting up near the scorer’s table, dribbling with his left hand while gesturing to the nearest Lusk defender to come defend him.

    Lusk had only two team fouls with a minute to play. That’s not usually a problem, but when you’re forced to foul and send the other team to the line to get the ball back it’s a huge issue.

    Three quick fouls sent Gambler to the line twice at the end of the game, he hit three of four free throw attempts.

    It was fitting that the play putting Wyoming Indian on the stage for the championship photo came on defense.

    Brothers Kelyn Mount and Darwin Gambler celebrate the state championship – h/t Randy Tucker

    The Chiefs extended man-to-man forced an over-and-back call and the floor exploded with celebration 12 seconds later.

    Eight Wyoming Indian players scored in the game, paced by Gambler’s 15 and 11 from Monroe-Black.

    It’s a promising future for Wyoming Indian. The state championship roster is laden with freshmen and sophomores.

    The Chiefs finished the season 24-6 overall.

    “It’s the first time I’ve filled all the pages in the scorebook,” Ferris said of the 30-game season.

    WYOMING INDIAN    11 12 12 13 – 48

    NIOBRARA COUNTY 13    8 12   9 – 42

    Wyoming Indian – Darwin Gambler 5 5-6 15, Kelyn Mount 2 1-2 5, Darian Augustine 2 0-0 4, Parlayne Ferris 1 0-0 2, Heeyeniniitou Monroe-Black 4 (1) 0-0 11, Tyson Soundingsides 2 1-2 5, Cordell Spoonhunter 1 0-0 2, Adriano Brown 1 0-1 2. Totals 19 (1) 7-11 48

    Niobrara County – Cory Bruegger 4 4-4 12, Aiden Mattheus 2 1-2 5, Corbin Matthews 4-4 4, Ridge Kupke 1-4 1, Nathan Miller 2 (2) 8-12 18. Totals 9 (2) 18-28 42

    The Title Game – h/t Randy Tucker


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