by nathan oster
If the first nine games weren’t enough of a measuring stick, the 10th certainly was.
In Class 1A’s top ranked Burlington Huskies, the Greybull Buffs may have faced their toughest opponent to date. While it will go down on the ledger as a 72-57 loss, Coach Jim Prather saw enough good things to be encouraged about his team’s chances when play resumes in January.
“No shame in losing to that team,” said Prather. “In fact, I told their coach after the game that in the 14 years I’ve been here, that’s one of the best Burlington teams I’ve seen — and they’ve had some really good ones over the years.
“They just have the total package. We knew that. They have size, exceptional athletes in the post and on the perimeter, plus guys who can shoot it. They’re just a well rounded team that is taking care of business.”
Being a non-conference game, Prather said he approached it from the standpoint of “wanting to work on things that would make us better in the long run.”
One of those things was a “high pressure press” that Prather rolled out early in the second quarter. After one, it had been a one-point game, at 12-11. “We played at the tempo we wanted in the first quarter and we were able to handle the pressure they applied defense, get the ball to the spots we wanted, and get good shots,” Prather said.
But when the Buffs rolled out the press in the second quarter, “Burlington figured it out pretty quickly and took control of the game. We weren’t able to stop the basketball. McNiven got loose for five straight baskets, which pushed their lead to 11 or 12,” said Prather.
The half ended on a demoralizing play — and with the Huskies in front 37-23.
Burlington stretched its lead to 27 at the end of three, 59-32, before the Buffs rallied in the fourth quarter to close the gap to 15 at the final buzzer.
“We made a few baskets in the second half,” said Prather. “One positive was that we were able to compete against a really good basketball team. Burlington could play In 1A, 2A, and maybe even 3A and compete for the conference championship.”
The Huskies put five players in double figures, with Davidson leading the way with 18 and McNiven following with 16. Preston Wardell, usually a big contributor for the Huskies, did not play.
The Buffs got a big game from Payton Gonzalez, who was 6 of 11 from the field en route to an 18-point performance. Wyatt Good sank a pair of threes and missed only three shots all night, finishing with 12. Freshman Treston Tracy also had a hot hand, connecting for 12 on 5 of 7 shooting from the field.
Prather said he believes the game will prepare his team for its first test after the holidays, a conference game against defending Northwest Conference champion Lovell. While the Buffs have played some good basketball, they have not won since the Big Horn Basin Shootout and will begin play in 2013 with a 4-6 record.
Prather isn’t worried.
“We finished the Burlington game playing well, especially in the second half,” said Prather. “We kept our turnovers down. We ended up shooting a good percentage from the field (49 percent), and for us, being able to make baskets consistently is always going to be a concern. To be able to do that against a team like Burlington was nice to see. Plus our free throw shooting is coming along…and our younger kids have gotten some valuable experience. I feel good about where we are as a team.”
Burlington 13 24 22 13 – 72
Greybull 12 11 9 25 – 57
BURLINGTON – Christiansen 3 0-0 6, Davidson 5 0-0 10, McNiven 8 0-3 16, Wardell 4 0-0 10, N. Carrizales 4 2-2 12, Davidson 8 2-3 18. Totals 32 4-8 72.
GREYBULL – Payton Gonzalez 6 5-6 18, Calder Forcella 2 0-0 5, Wyatt Good 5 0-0 12, Quinton Haley 0 1-2 1, Ryan Sylvester 1 1-2 3, Paul Stewart 2 0-2 4, Fabian Davila 1 0-0 2, Treston Tracy 5 2-3 12. Totals 22-45 9-15 57.
3-POINT GOALS – Wardell 2, N. Carrizales 2; Good 2, Forcella, Gonzalez. REBOUNDS – Greybull 27 (Stewart 8). STEALS – Greybull 9 (Forcella 3). ASSISTS – Greybull 15 (Sylvester 4). TURNOVERS – Greybull 24.