CASPER – The Tigers needed extra time but were able to battle back and behind a strong defensive effort, beat Cheyenne East in overtime, 55-49.
The Tigers entered the fourth quarter trailing but Derek Lionberger cut the lead to three to open the final period. East scored the next four but Rock Springs responded with a 5-2 run to pull to within four, 42-38. Kael Mikkelsen sparked a comeback from the foul line as he pulled the Tigers to within one with two minutes to go, 42-41.
It has been Trevor Hautala’s offense all year that has led the Tigers but on Thursday it was his defense. Several key steals led to Tiger points as Rock Springs jumped up two with 50 seconds left. A patient Cheyenne East looked for a shot and with 24 seconds hit a three to take the one-point lead, 47-46. The Tigers played for the final shot and East fouled Hautala on a drive to the hoop with six seconds. He hit one of two to even the game and send it to overtime.
Kelby Kramer hit a free throw to open the overtime period and give the Tigers the lead. They would never give it up. Rock Springs had several shots to extend the lead but struggled to convert. A Jesus Beltran steal led to two Kramer free throws as Rock Springs extended the lead to three with 1:36 to go.
East converted on the next possession but Kael Mikkelsen responded with 1:07 to maintain the three-point lead. Hautala forced another turnover which led to a Mikkelsen free throw as Rock Springs jumped up four with 34 seconds. The Tiger defense came up big again and another steal led to a Nick McMurtrey bucket to ice the game.
Mikkelsen and Kramer led the way for Rock Springs as both scored 15 points on the night. Most of Mikkelsen’s points came in a big first quarter for the Tigers. Kramer also pulled down seven boards on the night. Hautala finished with 11 points but have five key steals late in the game that helped Rock Springs come away with the win.
The Tigers will play for a spot in the title game Friday at 9 p.m. They await the winner of Natrona and Gillette.
Rock Springs High School
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