By: Shawn O’Brate

POWELL – This past weekend it seemed like there was a basketball game every few hours that people around Riverton, Lander and the rest of Fremont County would find interesting or find a team they root for playing in. But many of the basketball teams that fill Fremont County all participated in one of the biggest tournaments of the year, the Big Horn Basin Shootout Tournament.

The tournament was housed in four different locations, Powell and Cowley for the boys and Thermopolis and Worland for the girls, with teams from Lander, Wyoming Indian, Wind River and our neighbors up north, Thermopolis, taking part. 

While there was plenty of success around the tournaments for Fremont County teams none came close to the Lander Valley (LVHS) Tigers and their electrifying start to the tournament that saw them play in the championship match on Saturday afternoon. 

It all started Friday when Thermopolis went up against LVHS to kickoff the entire tournament. The Bobcats were without one of their main scorers, Cord Simeral, but the Tigers were out one of their bests as senior point guard Kaison McClung broke his arm in practice a few days earlier. 

“Kaison just brings a whole ‘nother energy,” Tigers’ senior Abe Lopez said about his teammate. “The other day Brenon (Stauffenberg) and I were talking and we were saying that the energy was off because Kasion wasn’t there. We just [need] to bring our own energy and our own intensity and we’ve got to put up numbers for Kaison because Kaison put up big numbers.”

Lander’s Abe Lopez went up against two Bobcats in the paint in Powell (p/c Lisa Bomengen)

LVHS started off strong against their friends and neighbors from up north in Thermopolis but the third quarter saw the Tigers only score six points while the Bobcats started to claw back, scoring 15 and bringing the game within five points. In the end the Tigers would do just enough to get the victory, shooting eight-of-twelve from the free throw line in the final quarter alone. 

LVHS wins over Thermopolis 52-43. 

Just two hours later, Lander had another tough matchup as their in-county combatants, the Wyoming Indian Chiefs, took the court against them. The Chiefs and Tigers matched each other’s speedy pace of play, quickfire offenses and stout perimeter defense for much of the game but early in the third quarter was when LVHS started to pull away. 

Before the game Lopez stated he was “looking to redeem himself” as he and Stauffenberg both lost to Wyoming Indian during their freshman year. Lopez would also keep his promise to McClung and “put up big numbers” as he dropped twelve points in the third quarter alone, leading to 23 total points against the Chiefs, the school that Lopez formerly attended.

LVHS would keep the scoring going, never letting their foot off the gas, and win over Wyoming Indian by a score of 77-65. That win guaranteed LVHS a spot in the play-in game the next day at 12:30, giving them a chance to play for the Big Horn Basin Shootout Championship and possibly win the trophy that they secured three years ago before Worland won back-to-back tournaments. 

Caleb Bartoni proved why he belonged on the Tigers’ varsity team with a trio of good shooting games in Powell. (p/c Lisa Bomengen)

Later Friday night, the final game of the day decided that LVHS would have to face off against Powell, the home team. Powell and Lander have had a long, tumultuous history against each other that was renewed in the first game of the season when they went to overtime against each other (again) with the Panthers emerging victorious, 67-61.

That game between them the next day was once again a rowdy game filled with very physical play underneath the basket and necessary free throw shooting to win the game. The game was within three points for much of the game as the first quarter ended 16-15 in favor of LVHS, the second quarter ended 29-28 in favor of Powell, and the third ended 42-39 in favor of LVHS. 

But, when the fourth quarter started, that was when the LVHS defense stepped up and held Powell’s tough inside presence and strong outside shooting to only six total points. Stauffenberg would lead the team with 17 points in the 54-48 victory, sending the Tigers to the Big Horn Basin Shootout Championship against Worland. 

After helping his team reach yet another tournament championship, their second in as many tournaments, a sweaty and happy Stauffenberg said that “we’ve battled with Powell for the last two years, it’s been either overtime or a one-possession ball game every time we’ve played so it’s just exciting to come out here, work as a team and get a win.”

Lander’s Bennett Washburn jumped for the rebound over Thermopolis on Friday. (p/c Lisa Bomengen)


Lander, who was riding a seven-game win streak, came out swinging against the Worland team who won the Cowley bracket of the Big Horn Basin Shootout Tournament. Worland, who was riding a six-game win streak heading into the championship game, couldn’t find their footing at the beginning and let Lander go up 13-2 before finally setting their feet and returning to what made them successful. 

Underneath the basket seemed to be a war zone with bodies flying, elbows thrown, and points scored in favor of Worland for the most part. After going up by eleven points early, the Tigers simply fell flat and allowed the Warriors to go on a twelve-point run to end the first quarter, putting them up over LVHS by one point, 14-13. 

After that it was all Worland, going on a 16-3 run in the second quarter and only allowing the Tigers to really score from the free throw line. Sloppy passing, poor dribbling and missed shots killed every chance at momentum that LVHS tried to set up and they would end up going into the halftime locker room down 30-16. 

The second half did not get any easier for LVHS, being outscored 22-15 in the third quarter and 14-12 in the fourth, but their offense returned to some form of normalcy despite key players like Lopez and Bennett Washburn being unable to find the bottom of the net. 

Worland would end up winning their third-straight Big Horn Basin Shootout Championship 66-43 and should be commended for keeping Lopez to two total points, Stauffenberg to eleven and every other LVHS starter underneath six points for the whole game. 

Lander now sits at 7-3 on the season and play in Mountain View (2-10) on Friday night at 7 P.M. You can listen to that game on 93.1 KFCW and watch, as always, on WyoToday’s YouTube page.