SHERIDAN, Wyo. — This one was personal for Sam Lecholat.
The Sheridan High star and Montana State signee wanted to set a tone for his Wyoming All-Stars in their matchup with Montana and Lecholat’s future Bobcat teammate, Missoula Sentinel’s Alex Germer.
But Germer and the Treasure State kept the upper hand with a 109-104 victory in the longstanding all-star series between the two states. Germer scored a game-high 25 points and fellow Sentinel alum Tony Frohlich-Fair added 23 and Montana continued its dominance in the annual matchup.
Montana has now won 17 in a row and increased its all-time series lead to 62-27. It has yet to lose since the University of Providence’s Steve Keller took over as coach in 2012.
Lecholat, who got a rousing ovation from the locals in pregame introductions, had a chance to tie the game with a 3 in the final seconds but misfired. Great Falls High’s Levi Torgerson gathered the rebound and iced the game with two free throws with one second left.
“We needed a 3,” said Lecholat, who labored to get enough space against tough defense for his final attempt. “I kept thinking, ‘Where’s the hoop? Where’s the hoop?’ Sometimes the shots don’t fall. You just have to keep shooting.”
Wyoming came out fast and led 14-8 within the first three minutes of the contest. But a two-handed dunk in traffic by Great Falls High’s Drew Wyman seemed to spark the Montana team, though there were seven ties in the first half.
Montana eventually took an 83-71 lead at the end of the third quarter, but Wyoming came racing back as Brian St. Clair of Lander Valley and Luke Hladky of Gillette Campbell County hit a series of clutch shots.
Hladky led Wyoming with 22 points and five 3-pointers. Lecholat scored 14 points. In the end, Montana won the game from the free throw line, making 37 of 40 attempts. Wyoming shot 20 of 27 from the stripe.
“They hit shots. We played good D but their shots were falling,” Germer said. “We believed in ourselves, made the right plays and just knocked down free throws.”
Germer, at 6-foot-6, and Lecholat, at 6-5, were matched up against one another for most of the night. Germer made just five field goals but was couldn’t be stopped getting to the free throw line, where he hit 15 of 17 attempts.
Germer and Lecholat both relished the chance to play against one another. Germer said their recruitment to Montana State “will be the start of something special” in Bozeman. Neither wanted to give an inch.
Added Lecholat: “I know it’s going to be like that for the next four years. I took it personal, because I wanted to set a tone. I think we both did our jobs against each other.”
Frohlich-Fair made the game’s key defensive play, forcing a turnover with 36 seconds left. Frohlich-Fair then found Wyman for another dunk while breaking Wyoming’s press to give Montana a 107-104 lead.
That led into Lecholat’s attempt, which originated from the left wing and bounced off the left-front side of the rim.
The teams will play a rematch Saturday at Lockwood High School in Billings, and Montana has the intention of keeping its winning streak intact.
“For sure. Definitely,” Germer said. “A streak like that, you don’t want to mess it up.”
Wyman had 18 points for Montana. Torgerson and Billings Skyview’s Cam Ketchum each had 10.
Encampment’s Dalton Peterson had 15 points for Wyoming, taking advantage of strong drives to the rim. Jefferson Neary of Gillette’s Campbell County scored 16, while St. Clair had 13 points.
NOTES: The teams will meet again Saturday at Lockwood High School in Billings. The girls game starts at 5:30 p.m. with the boys following at 7:30. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 students. There is no limit on spectator attendance. … The all-star series is presented by St. Vincent Healthcare and Universal Awards.