by nathan oster
After going more than a month without a win, the Greybull Buffs picked up two of them in as many days last weekend, beating conference rival Riverside 58-37 on Friday and then going on the road Saturday to notch a 72-55 win over St. Stephens.
The win over St. Stephen’s was Greybull’s first road win of the season, and it lifted the team a couple games closer to the .500 mark, at 6-8, heading into important Class 2A Northwest Conference showdowns later this week against Rocky Mountain and Thermopolis.
“Hard work in practice pays dividends,” said Coach Jim Prather. “Sometimes you don’t always see those manifested in the final score, but as a team, we felt like we were making progress. Finally this last weekend we were able to put a couple in the win column.”
The Buffs snapped an eight-game skid against Riverside, racing out to a 22-8 lead after one quarter and extending it to 34-11 at the half en route to the 21-point win, which was Greybull’s first in conference play this season.
When it’s Greybull and Riverside, you can throw out the records, Prather had said before the game. Separated by just seven miles, the schools are longtime rivals — and the kids know each other from their various activities.
“When you’re talking about a rivalry game like that one, first you must deal with those emotions,” Prather said. “We knew our kids were going to play hard … and we expected the same from Riverside.
“A lot of times in rivalry games, it takes kids a while to get rid of that extra energy and settle in. But credit our kids. They played with a lot of poise, ball movement was good, and we set ourselves up for some great shots around the basket.”
In the first quarter alone, Paul Stewart and Payton Gonzalez had opportunities for three-point plays after scoring and getting hacked in the act of shooting. Gonzalez had seven of his team-high 21 in the first quarter.
“From the start, we were able to get the ball where we wanted to and the kids were able to capitalize on those opportunities,” said Prather.
Gonzalez led the way for the Buffs, hitting 9-11 from the field as part of his 21-point effort.
“He had an excellent game,” Prather said. “He was aggressive, but at the same time, he let the game come to him. He didn’t force things. When the shots were there, he took them.
“Paul (Stewart) established himself around the basket, and Quinton (Haley) was aggressive around the basket,” Prather said of his two big men, who each netted nine in the win. “Those are the things we’re looking to get from our post players.”
Greybull had a good shooting night, hitting 48 percent of its field goal attempts, something Prather attributed partly to confidence.
Wyatt Good, who turned an ankle in Burlington, returned to the lineup and contributed right away, chipping in eight points to go along with a team-high three assists.
The Buffs followed that up with an even better performance Saturday in St. Stephens. It was a four-point game at the half, but the Buffs put some distance between themselves and the Eagles with a 27-18 third-quarter surge. Haley sparked it, scoring 10 of his 20 points in the frame.
Prather called it “another nice effort in regard to focus and concentration. We ran our offense better than we have in a long time, and that meant we got the ball where we wanted it to go — and we got the shots that we wanted.”
Gonzalez also had it working in St. Stephens, sinking nine of 18 from the field to finish with 22 points. He also had four steals, tops on the team. Stewart also finished in double digits with 10.
Prather called it “a breakthrough win, in the sense that we hadn’t won on the road” to that point of the season. The weekend as a whole provided a shot in the arm for a team that had struggled mightily in its first two games after the holidays.
“If back to back wins don’t elevate the conference level of the kids, I’m not sure what button you can push to change that,” Prather said. “The kids felt great Saturday on the bus ride home. We needed to play well and put back to back games together.”
A big weekend looms on the horizon for the Greybull boys, who face Rocky Mountain today (Thursday, Jan. 17) in Cowley before returning to Buff Gym on Friday night to tangle with Thermopolis. Game time is 7 p.m. at both locations.
Rocky Mountain and Thermopolis are the two teams directly ahead of the Buffs in the conference standings. The Grizzlies swept the Buffs last year. “They were one of my choices in the early part of the season to be one of the better teams in 2A,” Prather said. “They’ve got seven fine players, they are athletic, they can put a lot of pressure on the ball, which we saw last year.”
Thermop fended off the Buffs the first time around, winning in double overtime in December.
“We’d like to think home-court advantage is worth a couple of points,” Prather said. “If we get an opportunity to close the deal, hopefully we’ll be able to do that this time. We’ve gotten better in the weeks since we played them. We’ll see how it shakes out.”
Greybull 22 12 11 13 — 58
Riverside 8 3 12 14 — 37
GREYBULL — Payton Gonzalez 9 3-7 21, Calder Forcella 1 0-0 2, Wyatt Good 2 4-4 8, Quinton Haley 4 1-2 9, Ryan Sylvester 1 0-0 2, Paul Stewart 4 1-3 9, Fabian Davila 1 1-2 3, Logan Jensen 0 0-2 0, Treston Tracy 2 0-0 4. Totals 24 10-20 58.
RIVERSIDE — Getzfreid 1 2-3 4, Vollan 3 0-0 8, McKim 2 1-3 5, Mercer 1 2-3 4, Vigil 1 2-2 4, Roussan 1 0-0 2, Schwede 1 3-4 5, Deniz 2 1-2 5. Totals 12 10-17 37.
3-POINT GOALS — Vollan 2. REBOUNDS — Greybull 32 (Haley 6). STEALS — Greybull 19 (Stewart 7). ASSISTS — Greybull 14 (Good and Stewart, 3). TURNOVERS — Greybull 22.
Greybull 16 14 27 15 — 72
St. Stephens 14 12 18 11 — 55
GREYBULL — Gonzalez 9 1-2 22, Forcella 1 0-0 3, Good 2 2-5 7, Haley 10 0-0 20, Sylvester 0 2-2 2, Stewart 3 4-4 10, Tracy 4 0-0 8. Totals 29 9-13 72.
ST STEPHENS — S. Brown 1 1-2 3, C. Littleshield 6 2-3 18, R. Roman 0 5-6 5, S. Teran 5 1-2 12, L. Oldman 7 1-4 17. Totals 19 10-17 55.
3-POINT GOALS — Gonzalez 3, Forcella, Good; Littleshield 4, Oldman 2, Teran. REBOUNDS — 46 (Haley 11, Good 10). STEALS — Greybull 9 (Gonzalez 4. ASSISTS — Greybull 21 (Good and Sylvester, 5). TURNOVERS — Greybull 19.