East ties state record with win over Douglas

Jan. 8—CHEYENNE — On Feb. 12, 2021, Cheyenne East played a rough second half and fell 72-64 at home to Thunder Basin.

Since then, the Lady Thunderbirds have not lost a game. On Saturday, they tied the all-time record for most consecutive wins by a girls team in Wyoming at 48 with a 61-36 win over the Douglas Bearcats.

"It's been five years of great family, great kids and great community," East coach Eric Westling said. "That's what I think about when I think of 48 wins is how many kids are so good."

It was not easy for the T-Birds early on in their final match up of the James Johnson Winter Classic. Out of the gate, East struggled to score. Senior Boden Liljedahl made the team's only shot in the first quarter, which was a deep 3-pointer.

East made three free throws during the rest of the first quarter, putting up just six points. Douglas did not fare much better but did just enough to carry a 10-6 lead out of the first quarter.

During the early parts of the second, East continued to struggle to shoot from the field. By the five-minute mark of the second quarter, East had connected on just one of its first 14 shots of the game.

Douglas used this time to build up an 18-11 lead it carried deep into the second quarter. But East showed why it has been one of the best teams in the state over the past three years and went on a 12-3 run to close out the half with a 23-21 lead.

Part of the reason East was able to stay in the game while it struggled offensively was the play of its defense. While there were some concerns with rebounding and occasional lapses, the T-Birds played excellent on-ball defense.

"Defense is a huge thing for us," junior Bradie Schlabs said. "Our coaches have always stressed that defense is our bread and butter.

"Defense is heart, and everyone on the team has heart."

East used that momentum it built to put together a masterful second half. The T-Birds put outscored 38-15 in the second half, including an 18-3 third quarter, to run away with the game.

"We just had some kids reset," Westling said. "Sometimes the shots just don't go in, but you (have to) keep taking them. It just took a while, but they settled in and made them."

As they have done time and time again, Schlabs and Liljedahl played crucial roles on both ends for the T-Birds. While she struggled in the first half, Liljedahl made some big shots in the third and fourth quarter to help East continue to extend its lead. Schlabs picked up a lot of the scoring load in the first half, particularly in the second quarter.

In total, the two combined for 32 of the team's 61 points.

While the tandem has been major components to East's success during this win streak, they have not been the only ones. East has gotten major contributions from everyone throughout the last 48 games, which has been critical to the team's success.

Schlabs said that part of the reason they have been able to get these kinds of contributions is because the team always looks ahead to the next game, no matter what.

"It is so rare to get kids like that," Westling said. "Those kids are just everything and so special."

The T-Birds have five days off before their next game. When they come back Jan. 12, they will have the chance to set the record at 49 consecutive wins if they are able to pick up a win over Riverton.

While there is buzz over the T-Birds and the magnitude of this game, the team does not look at it that way. Instead of getting caught up in the moment, the player treat it like another game — a mindset that has gotten them to this point.

"We go into every game the same," Schlabs said. "Every game is important to us, no matter who we are playing. We just (need) to look at it as another game, go to practice on Monday and just focus on that."

EAST 61, DOUGLAS 36

Cheyenne East...... 6 17 18 20 — 61

Douglas...... 10 11 3 12 — 36

Douglas: Br. Wright 3, Ba. Wright 6, Olsen 13, Meyer 10, Parker 1, Fertig 1, Degracia 0, Engle 2,

Cheyenne East: DeLong 9, B. Schlabs 15, Cassat 5, E. Fonseca 8, Liljedahl 17, Hall 0, Brown 5, Booth 0 Haws 2, Q. Fonseca 0 Ward 0.

Matt Atencio covers Laramie County prep sports for WyoSports. He can be reached at matencio@wyosports.net. Follow him on Twitter at @MattAtencio5.