by nathan oster
Greybull’s winning streak came to an abrupt halt Dec. 17 when the Buffs dropped a 21-point decision to the Burlington Huskies, who entered the game as the No. 1 ranked team in Class 1A.
“They’re the best team we’ve played so far this year — and actually, I’d say they’re the best team on our schedule this year,” said Coach Jim Prather, whose team dropped to 7-1 overall with the loss.
The shooting precision the Buffs showed in winning four straight at the Coal Miner’s Classic — when they connected on more than 50 percent of their field goal attempts in the three of the four games and 40 percent in the fourth — was nowhere to be found on a frosty night inside and outside the Burlington gym.
The Buffs hit only 30 percent of their field goals (18-of-60) against the Huskies and went to the line only 10 times, converting five. It was the team’s lowest scoring output of the season.
“I’d like to think that’s because Burlington is just really good,” Prather said of his team’s shooting woes. “They are long and athletic … and they do a nice job of closing down what appear to be openings. Before you can get there, there are one or two Burlington players protecting the basket, and what you saw isn’t there anymore.”
Prather said the Huskies also had their way with the Buffs offensively.
In short, they’re “one of the better basketball teams we’ve seen in awhile.”
“They’re a fun group to watch, unless you’re sitting on the opposing bench,” he said.
Prather said his team did some things well, like stepping up their effort in the 1-3-1 zone in the second half, but by then it was too late. The Huskies also pounded the boards, capitalizing on several second and third shots.
Treston Tracy paced Greybull with 12, followed by Payton Gonzalez with 10. While it was an off night for him shooting, Kason Clutter still produced team-highs in rebounds, with seven, and assists, with nine.
Prather kept the loss in perspective. While there’s work left to do, he’ll take a 7-1 record going into the holidays.
“We viewed it as a great opportunity to learn,” he said. “It was a non-league game, and we approached it with the idea of testing ourselves against the best team around, a chance to see where we stand.
“Yes, it pointed out some of our deficiencies. But we’d rather do that in a non-league setting against a rival like Burlington than figure those things out after a loss in league play. I think it’ll be beneficial for us in the long run.”
After the break
The Buffs will open Class 2A Northwest Conference play when they return from the holiday break on Friday, Jan. 3. They will be in Thermopolis to play the Bobcats, with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m.
The weekend after that, Lovell and Burlington come to town.
That, however, can wait. First up is a nice holiday break, a time to reflect on a 7-1 start that has established the Buffs as one of the teams to be reckoned with in 2A. Then the focus will shift to Thermopolis.
“They’re an athletic group and they have couple of kids who were good scorers for them last year,” said Prather. “The Cornwell boy is just a sophomore, but he is really aggressive, drives hard to the basket and can shoot some threes. Another kid is a good three-point shooter who can get it up quickly. We think we match up well with them, though.”
Burlington 66, Greybull 45
GREYBULL — Payton Gonzalez 4 0-2 10, Kason Clutter 2 0-0 4, Ryan Sylvester 3 0-0 7, Paul Stewart 2 0-2 4, Zack Zeller 1 1-2 3, Bryce Wright 2 0-0 5, Treston Tracy 4 4-4 12. Totals 18-60 5-10 45.
3-POINT GOALS — Gonzalez 2, Sylvester, Wright. REBOUNDS — Greybull 33 (Clutter, Tracy 7). STEALS — Greybull 9 (Gonzalez 4). ASSISTS — Greybull 14 (Clutter 9).