Later start spells doom for Shootout

by nathan oster

Gyms and wrestling rooms across the Cowboy State were whistle-free on Monday, which under normal circumstances would have been the first official day of practice for the winter sports of boys and girls basketball and wrestling.

This year it’s a whole new ballgame, however, as the Wyoming High School Activities Association pushed the start date of the winter sports back two weeks, to the Monday after Thanksgiving.

The impact of that change will be felt immediately by local hoop fans, who in the past have crowded into Big Horn County gyms the first weekend of December to see how their favorite teams stack up against teams from around the state in the Big Horn Basin Shootout.

There will a Shootout this year, but Greybull won’t be participating. Rocky Mountain and Burlington will host a tournament for smaller schools on Friday, Dec. 19 and Saturday, Dec. 20.

Nolan Tracy, the activities director at GHS, said that when the WHSAA approved the change, he initially asked Wright and Glenrock to push their tournament back a week so the Shootout could continue. When that didn’t occur, he started looking at other weekends, but found none that worked for the 2A teams that typically attend the Shootout — among them Big Piney, Kemmerer and Wind River.

So what Tracy and the Buffs ended up doing, at least for this year, was committing to attend a tournament on Friday, Jan. 2 and Saturday, Jan. 3 in Big Piney. While there will be a number of 1A teams in the field, the Buffs will at least get a look at Big Piney, Tracy said, adding that he’s hopeful about the prospect of the Shootout returning in 2015. As of Monday, five schools were on board and Tracy was waiting to hear from a sixth.

But that’s next season.

This season will have a very different feel.

The Buffs will not play a single game on their home floor in December. And for the year, there are just seven home games, including a Jan. 17 clash with Big Horn that was recently switched to a home game. To make up for it, there will be varsity games only in Big Horn on Friday, Dec. 19.

The other significant change is that there will not be a Lovell-Greybull game this year.

The Bulldogs have moved up to 3A this year, and while an attempt was made to schedule a nonconference game between the longtime rivals, Tracy and his counterpart at LHS, Joe Koritnik, were never able to get on the same page with respect to a date.

The schedule includes two games against Shoshoni, which is replacing Lovell in the 2A Northwest this season.

Tracy said all things considered, the Buffs would probably end up playing four fewer games this regular season than they did last year. But that’ll be the case for just about every basketball team due to the shortened seasons. “Everybody’s in the same boat,” said Tracy.