A season to remember

Glenrock head coach Shawn Huxtable raises his fists into the air with enthusiasm following a quick score in transition during Glenrock’s consolation championship loss to the Wright Panthers last Saturday at the Casper Events Center. The Herders returned to the state tournament this season for the first time since 2014 and won more games (21) than any other Glenrock team since 1978. 

Eddie Poe eddie@glenrockind.com

In the end, it was a season for the history books.
It was a season that reignited a community’s passion for the game of basketball. The 2018-2019 season for the Glenrock Herders was truly special. And it should always be remembered that way.
Led by fourth-year head coach Shawn Huxtable, the Herders won more games this season (21) than any other Glenrock team since 1978. It was the program’s first trip to the state tournament since 2014, and was a proper send-off for a group of seniors whose legacy won’t soon be realized.
“It’s hard to talk about it without getting emotional,” Huxtable said following Glenrock’s 52-48 loss to Wright in the consolation championship last Saturday in Casper. “Coaches say it all the time, but it really was a family. They fought for each other, played for each other, cared for each other and that’s something that will last them much longer than just this season.”
As the Herders’ team bus followed a police escort past a sea of supportive Intermediate School students on their way to Casper College last Thursday for their opening round game against Rocky Mountain, it became apparent what this season represented not only to the program, but to the community.
After winning 18 games during the regular season, Glenrock then finished third at the 2A East regional tournament to punch their ticket to state. When they arrived at Casper College for their opening round matchup, and then at Casper Events Center the following day, Herder Nation began to put things into perspective for Huxtable and his group.
“It gave you goosebumps to hear the crowd and see all of the support from the community,” Huxtable said.
Senior Kale Kuhlman echoed that same sentiment.
“Just knowing that the community was excited and behind us, backing us up . . . it made everything that we did worthwhile,” he said. “Win or lose, it didn’t matter.”
Glenrock entered the state tournament as the No. 3 seed out of the East and faced No. 2 seed out of the West, Rocky Mountain, in the quarterfinals. The Grizzlies were a team that the Herders had beaten earlier in the year, 60-51 at the Herder Classic during the first weekend of the season.
But much like Huxtable and his team, Rocky Mountain blossomed as the season progressed and won 8 of their last 9 games heading into their regional tournament. Whether it was state tournament nerves, or just simply unfortunate luck, the Herders came out cold in the first half against the Grizzlies.
Glenrock scored just four points in the first quarter and had only 23 points to show for heading into the fourth quarter. Rocky Mountain went on to win 61-46 to send the Herders into the consolation bracket, dashing any hopes they had of bringing the championship trophy back to Converse County.
“I think there was probably some nerves having not been there before,” Huxtable said. “But once those nerves wear off sometimes shots just don’t go in.”
Despite the loss, the Herders remained resilient. They had worked extremely hard to reach the season’s biggest stage, and they weren’t about to just throw away all of their efforts.
The team returned the following day to the Casper Events Center and put on an impressive shooting display. They got back to their brand of basketball, turning defensive takeaways into offensive points and had their way in transition. Seniors Tucker Bopp and Jaren Fritz each finished with 22 points to pace the Herders in a 72-49 win over Kemmerer to advance to the consolation championship game on Saturday.
Huxtable and his team took the court the next day to face the Wright Panthers with the consolation trophy on the line. It was one final opportunity to lay it all out on the hardwood.
After trailing 17-12 at the end of the first quarter, the Herders stormed back in the second quarter to take a 28-25 lead into halftime. From there it was a back-and-forth affair as both teams continuously traded baskets even down to the final moments of the game. In the end, the Panthers held on for a 52-48 win.
Bopp scored a team-high 15 points and Payton Steinmetz added 10 in the loss. Fritz added 8 and Archer Young contributed 7.
“I’m really proud of our effort,” Kuhlman said following the loss. “We didn’t let up at any time. Other than a few cards that didn’t fall our way, we were working hard and that’s all that matters.”
It wasn’t the ending the Herders were hoping for in Casper, but it was a remarkable season nonetheless. And as a senior group, it was their first experience playing on the floor at Casper Events Center, a memory that will stick with them forever.
“It was awesome,” Bopp said. “We went 21-7. You can’t beat that as a senior group. I think we started our travel team in second grade, obviously without Jaren, but it was still great to see where we all started and how we finished.”
As he addressed them in the locker room following the loss, Huxtable reminded his players what this year’s journey and the experience at the state tournament will represent to them down the road. No one can ever take that away from them, and it will be remembered as the peak of their time on the basketball court for Glenrock.
“When we have awards night in a couple of weeks it’s going to be a celebration,” Huxtable said. “We’re going to celebrate four years for our seniors and we’re going to celebrate a heck of a year. Right now, it’s still about swallowing that pill, but I love these guys. I love the team and I love the season.
“It was incredible. I couldn’t have asked for more as a coach.”


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