The Laramie Lady Plainsmen embark on a new experience, as they open play at the 4A State Basketball Tournament in Casper on Thursday.

Laramie hasn’t been here since 2013, and no player on the roster has experienced a state tournament game atmosphere. After achieving one big goal, this is a Lady Plainsmen team that’s trying to move on to an even bigger one.

LHS doesn’t enter state on a high note. They lost their last two games at the regional tournament last weekend and finished as the number four seed from the East Conference.

Now they face a red-hot Rock Springs team that won three straight at last weekend’s regional tournament to grab the top seed from the West Conference. That included an upset by the Tigers over top seed Natrona, 44-43, in the regional title game.

These teams faced each other once in the regular season. That meeting was in Laramie on Jan. 13. The Lady Plainsmen prevailed 53-42. LHS shot the ball well in the first half, but cooled off in the second half and had to hold on with defense.

Second-year Laramie head coach Laura Pollard admits the butterflies are there; believes it’ll be a tough game against the Tigers, who are led by (#23) Maggie Justinak and (#13) Ky Buell; and also hopes their focus carries through the first round match-up.

Laramie (16-8) is led by junior Lexi Pulley and sophomore Jennifer Aadland. Pulley leads the team in scoring, assists and steals. She’s averaging 10.8 points, 2.9 assists and 3.6 steals per game. Aadland is second in scoring and leads the Lady Plainsmen in rebounding. She’s at 10.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. The squad also leans heavily on its six seniors.

Rock Springs (16-6) is led by its 1-2 punch of Justinak and Buell. They are the two leading scorers in class 4A. Justinak pours in 16.5 points per game, while Buell is at 15.8 per game.

The Tigers have an edge in scoring (55-50.5), shooting (37%-34%) and rebounding (32-28.8) over the Lady Plainsmen. The only stat where Laramie is ahead of Rock Springs is on defense, where LHS gives up 42.7 points per game to the Tigers 45.2.

Game time is at 6 p.m. from Casper College’s Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gymnasium.

KOWB (AM 1290) will air the game live starting at 5:15 p.m. David Settle and VerDon Hoopes will call the action.

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