Gabby Mendoza wanted to end her basketball career with one last home win.
Mendoza, a senior at Thunder Basin High School, has never lost to crosstown Campbell County in high school. She helped continue that streak with a 54-37 win over the Camels for senior night Thursday at TBHS.
Mendoza was an instrumental part of the Bolts’ offensive attack, finishing with a team-high 18 points to complete the season sweep of Campbell County. Thunder Basin beat the Camels 70-57 last month at CCHS.
Junior Joelie Spelts finished with 15 points and junior Laney McCarty had nine. For the Camels, sophomore Cami Curtis had her best scoring game of the season with a team-high 18 points.
Thursday’s game was the regular season finale for both Gillette teams. The Bolts finished the regular season 17-4 and 9-1 in conference play. The Camels finished 6-15 and 3-7.
The Bolts’ 9-1 conference record clinches the No. 2 seed in the Class 4A East regional tournament next weekend in Cheyenne. The Camels will have either the No. 6 or No. 7 seed, depending on the outcome of Friday’s game between Kelly Walsh and Sheridan. Results were not available before print deadline.
The No. 6 and No. 7 seed will be decided by tiebreakers, according to the Wyoming High School Activities Association. Depending on how the tiebreakers shake out, Campbell County could fall to the No. 7 seed to set up a rematch with Thunder Basin in the first round of regionals.
Bolts primed for deep run
Thunder Basin’s lone conference loss was to No. 1-ranked Cheyenne East 66-54 earlier this month. The Thunderbirds went into the weekend 21-0 and 9-0.
East is the defending state champions in Class 4A and the title favorite again this year. But Thunder Basin played the Thunderbirds in the regular season and Mendoza knows no team in the state is unbeatable.
“I feel pretty comfortable going into regionals,” Mendoza said. “East is definitely a beatable team. I’m just excited to go out and give them a good game and to hopefully beat them when it really matters.”
The Bolts have been the No. 3-ranked team in the WyoPrep.com coaches and media girls basketball rankings for the majority of the season. East has been the unanimous No. 1 team all season followed by Cody at No. 2.
Thunder Basin went its regular season finale with Campbell County inside the top 5 for both offense and defense, according to WyoPrep.com. The Bolts were ranked No. 1 in rebounding (35.7 per game), No. 3 in scoring (54.1 points per game), No. 4 in defense (39.9 points against per game) and No. 5 in shooting (38.5%).
The Bolts will go into the regional tournament with plenty of momentum after winning 16 of its last 18 games to close out the regular season.
“I’m so excited,” Mendoza said. “Our team has really put our offense together and we have a phenomenal defense in my opinion. I’m just really excited to go out and try to win a championship with a really great team.”
Teams will need to win two games at the regional tournament to qualify for state. Thunder Basin went into last year’s regional tournament as the No. 1 seed but lost to East 73-64 in the regional championship.
The Bolts won the consolation bracket at last year’s state tournament after a 59-56 loss to Cody in the quarterfinals.
Camels face tough path to state
Campbell County will play either Thunder Basin or Laramie in the first round of the regional tournament next weekend. The Plainsmen went into the weekend 13-7 and 6-3 and beat the Camels 53-50 earlier this month.
One advantage Campbell County has going into the playoffs is having plenty of experience on the bench. Braidi Lutgen is in her first season coaching her alma mater and won the Class 4A state championship at Thunder Basin in 2019.
Lutgen was the Class 4A East Coach of the Year in 2019 and 2020 with the Bolts.
The Camels went into their final game with Thunder Basin ranked inside the top 5 in scoring and rebounding. Campbell County was No. 4 in scoring (52.2 points per game) and No. 5 in rebounding (30.0 per game) but were ranked No. 11 in shooting (33.7%) and No. 15 in defense (57.2 points against per game) out of the 16 teams in Class 4A.
Campbell County missed the state tournament last year after losing to Sheridan 53-44 in the first round of regionals. Last year’s tournament was condensed to quadrants because of COVID-19 but this year’s bracket will feature all eight teams from the East.
The Class 4A East regional tournament will start Thursday at Cheyenne South. The top 4 teams from the three-day tournament will represent the East at the Class 4A state tournament March 10-12 in Casper.
For TBHS and CCHS basketball results, visit gillettenewsrecord.com or follow Sports Editor Alex Taylor on Twitter @alex_m_taylor22.