EVANSTON — Because our Lady Red Devils basketball preview was more lengthy than anticipated, not as much detail will be contained within this Red Devils basketball preview. Evanston is tied for the conference lead with Riverton, with four wins and one loss. Kelly Walsh is second, sporting a 3-2 conference mark, with a third place tie at 2-3 between Rock Springs and Natrona County, and Green River, winless, at 0-5, with the first half of the conference season complete.
The Red Devils embark on the second half of the conference season in Casper, with three of their five 4A West Conference games on the road. After this weekend, however, Feb. 8 and 9, the Red Devils will have two of three at home.
Evanston swept the Casper schools to open the conference season, on Jan. 18 and 19, downing the NC Mustangs, 57-51, and besting the Kelly Walsh Trojans the next day, 47-36. Kade Lym led Evanston with 20 points against the Mustangs, with Matt Johnson right behind with 19, as both senior Red Devils each netted eight points in the first quarter, allowing the home team to lead wire-to-wire, jumping out to a 19-11 first quarter lead, from which the Red Devils never looked back.
Parker Browning and Chandler Meeboer reached double digit scoring for Natrona County, with 14 and 10 points, respectively, with six-foot, six-inch senior Nathan Pieper almost a non-factor. Pieper is the Mustangs’ leading scorer, averaging 11 points per game, though his offensive production has fallen off a couple of points from the 13 he was averaging in the first meeting. Pieper assuredly recalls scoring only four points, and before his hometown crowd on Friday night, will have added incentive not to let it happen again.
The Red Devils approach their season with a “one game at a time” focus, with the next game always the most important. Even though their 11-point margin of victory over Kelly Walsh was more convincing on the scoreboard than their six-point win over Natrona County, the Trojans may very well present more of a challenge than the Mustangs.
Randy Roden, the longtime and successful hoops coach for the Mustangs, was lured out of retirement after a few seasons to coach at rival Kelly Walsh. The Trojans boast a young, athletic team, with good size. They are steadily improving and will likely be a factor in this season’s state tournament, but if not, watch out for KW in the 2013-2014 season. The Trojans have accomplished what no other team in the conference has been able to do, and join the No. 1 Gillette Camels as the only other team to defeat the Riverton Wolverines.
Taylor Siemers had a season and career-high 13 points in the Red Devils’ home win over the Trojans, with Matt Johnson contributing 10, and Jemini Leckie adding nine.
Kooper Adams led eight Trojans in the scoring column with nine. Six-foot, six-inch junior Beecher Strube scored seven and Marco Sanchez chipped in six. Adams leads the Trojans with the 12.2 scoring average. Six-foot, four-inch sophomore, Ethan Applegate, could very well be more of a factor in the second meeting, as well.
The three teams are close in scoring, all averaging between 48 and 50 points per game. The Red Devils and Trojans are middle-of-the-pack in team shooting, while Natrona is 12th of the 12 4A squads, statistically, but a better rebounding team than Kelly Walsh or Evanston.
The Red Devils remain the best team defensively, allowing just 46.9 points per game. The Trojans are fourth at 48.8, so there’s not much separation between two defensive-minded squads. The Mustangs are middle of the pack, but they, too, are not far off the pacesetter, giving up just 53.8 points per game.
Matt Johnson continues to lead his Red Devils team in most statistical categories, which are also listed among the best in the conference and state. Siemers is showing increased production in other categories, such as rebounding, since he began to play more wing and post, moving from point guard to allow Johnson’s younger brother, sophomore Alek, to assume that position as a starter.
The Red Devils appear to be utilizing the bench more, anticipating the need for increased depth for the rest of the conference season run and into the regional and state tournaments. Those reserve players are stepping up nicely. Evanston is not losing a lot, especially defensively, when the bench players are called upon.
The Mustangs and Trojans will also host the Green River Wolves, Evanston’s travel partner, so to speak, on the weekend.
The Red Devils will tip-off against Natrona County at 7 p.m. on Friday night, Feb. 8, and battle the Trojans Saturday at 1 p.m., with sophomore and junior varsity games preceding the varsity matchups both days. Should the Red Devils equal their accomplishment in the first meetings, and achieve a sweep over the weekend, they would be well-poised for at least a second place finish in the 4A West Conference, but anything can happen, and that’s why we play the games.