by nathan oster
There’s something about that trip across the mountain to play at Tongue River High School.
Greybull teams have historically had a tough time winning there — and that proved to be the case again on Saturday as the homestanding Eagles rallied to erase a nine-point halftime deficit and notch a 72-64 win over the Buffs.
It was the second loss in a three-game span for the Buffs, who dropped to 12-5 overall.
More important, it was the third straight year the Buffs were turned away in Dayton. Their last win there was in 2009.
“We had our opportunities to be up by more than nine (at the half),” said Coach Jim Prather. “I think (at 39-30), with the style they play, (the Eagles) felt like they were in the game and that things were going the way they wanted them to go.”
The Buffs had things working early. After one, it was 21-13, largely on the strength of Austin Frazier. The senior hit two three-balls and scored 12 points in the first quarter alone. By halftime, he had 17…and the Buffs were in the driver’s seat.
Defensively, they had limited Tongue River’s Stephen Yellowtail to just four points.
“He was our point of emphasis throughout the week,” Prather said.
The Eagles began chipping away at the Buff lead in the third — and were within two, at 51-49, going into the fourth. That’s when the tide turned. Held to six through the first three quarters, Yellowtail heated up, netting 16 of Tongue River’s points in a decisive 25-13 fourth-quarter run.
“Everything we had done well defensively in the first half went by the wayside, especially in the fourth quarter,” Prather said. “More than anything, I can attribute that to just being worn down. They ran us into the ground, got us tired to the point where we weren’t able to defend any more.”
When fresh, the Buffs “denied (Yellowtail’s) cuts to the basket and forced him to go where he didn’t want to go.” But in the fourth, “He got to the spots he wanted to get to … he’s a great offensive player.”
It wasn’t a bad shooting night for the Buffs. They hit 42 percent of their field goal attempts.
“But our 40 percent didn’t compare to their close to 60-percent (shooting) in the second half,” Prather said. “We had more field goal attempts than they did, we outrebounded them, especially in the second half. We just weren’t able to get the stops we needed defensively.”
Prather reiterated that Tongue River is a good offensive club, and while the Buffs like playing at a faster tempo, they got caught up in a shootout. “To look up at the scoreboard (at the half) and see 30 points allowed … that’s not what we expect,” Prather said. “It wasn’t the kind of defensive effort that characterizes our ballclub.”
Turnovers also contributed to the loss, as Greybull finished with 27 miscues.
That, too, may have been a result of conditioning. As the one who organizes practices, Prather shouldered the blame for that, and said it would be an area of emphasis this week in practice. On a more positive note, he said, “It’s been a few years since we went over the mountain and scored points at all,” he said. “So in that sense, we did take something positive out of it. But you have to be able to shut the other team down, too. For a team that takes as much pride in defense as we do, I’d say everybody was pretty disappointed leaving the gym.”
The Buffs will have a tripleheader this week, as they host Class 2A Northwest Conference games against Riverside tonight (Thursday, Feb. 2) and Lovell Friday before hitting the road for a non-conference game against Wyoming Indian on Saturday.
“It’s a tough trio of games, to say the least,” Prather said. “We’re going to approach this week like it’s a tuneup for the regional. Every game is important. The first two will have a bearing on our seeding for the regional tournament. So the focus will be on Riverside and Lovell. But that third game in three days — that’s something we will have to do at regionals, and it’s going to be against a team we could possibly see at regionals.”
Prather was asked if he was concerned with his team’s recent play, and more specifically, its losses in the last two weeks to Rocky Mountain and Tongue River.
“Not at this point,” he said. “As I said last week, if you’re going to stumble, better to do it in January that in February or March. Tongue River’s been a tough place for us to play. I like to think of them as isolated occurrences. I don’t think we’ve peaked yet. The goal is to be playing our best by regionals. More than anything, I look at those two losses as opportunities to see where we need to improve.”
The varsity games against Riverside and Lovell will tip off around 7 p.m. Tip time Saturday in Ethete is 3 p.m.
Greybull 21 17 12 13 — 64
Tongue R. 13 17 19 25 — 72
GREYBULL — Payton Gonzalez 2 1-2 6, Austin Frazier 8 4-4 24, Kason Clutter 3 0-1 7, Travis Sylvester 3 0-2 7, Paul Stewart 1 0-0 2, Neil Getzfreid 4 0-0 8, Hayden Goton 4 0-0 8 Brady Shoemaker 1 0-0 2. Totals 26-62 5-9 64.
TONGUE RIVER — Moore 1 0-0 2, McCrugh 2 0-0 4, Jolovich 4 1-3 9, S. Yellowtail 8 4-4 22, M. Yellowtail 3 0-0 8, Docery 5 1-1 13, Gross 6 0-0 14. Totals 29 6-8 72.
3-POINT GOALS — Frazier 4, Clutter, Sylvester, Gonzalez; S. Yellowtail 2, M. Yellowtail 2, Dockery 2, Gross 2. REBOUNDS — Greybull 37 (Goton 11). STEALS — Greybull 8 (Sylvester 3). ASSISTS — Greybull 18 (Clutter 7). TURNOVERS — Greybull 27.