by nathan oster
The Greybull Buffs could overcome a bad quarter against Thermopolis, but not against Rocky Mountain on the opening weekend of conference play.
The Buffs took a punch from Thermopolis on Friday night at Buff Gym, as the visitors scored 16 of the first 20 points before the hosts put it all together.
When they did that, it was no contest, as the Buffs outscored the Bobcats 59-29 over the course of the final three quarters to notch the 63-45 win.
“The kids never got rattled,” Coach Jim Prather said. “I think they recognized that for the most part, they were in the right spots defensively. Thermop just hit a couple of shots. We were getting good shots, but they weren’t going in the basket.”
“Our kids stuck to the game plan and it paid off.”
Jordan Jackson, who transferred in from Lusk during the offseason, wasted no time endearing himself to Buff fans, as he poured in a game-high 24 points to go along with seven rebounds and two blocked shots.
“Jordan puts himself in the right spot offensively and plays very well opposite Treston,” said Prather. “From the very first time we saw him in the gym, he has demonstrated an understanding of what’s going on and fit in seamlessly.”
Speaking of Tracy, Greybull’s other big went for 13 points, 10 boards and a block.
“Treston’s a proven commodity, so teams will try to take him away first. That creates opportunities for Jordan. And I can see it working vice versa, too, as word gets out about Jordan. Teams will flip around and focus their defense on him — which will create openings for Treston. It’s a nice luxury for a coach to have.”
Prather said the Buffs’ work on the boards was another key — Greybull outrebounded Thermopolis 45-28 and limited the Bobcats to just four offensive rebounds — as was its defensive effort against Tyler Cornwell.
Described by Prather last week as one of the top scorers in the league, Cornwell scored just four in the first half and finished with 12.
Saturday afternoon’s matchup in Cowley featured two of the top four finishers at last year’s state tournament. The Grizzlies returned virtually their entire cast from last year’s state runner-up team.
The two longtime rivals didn’t disappoint in their first meeting of the season, going toe to toe for four quarters before the Grizzlies survived to win 54-52.
A rough second quarter was the difference. Greybull mustered just six points in the frame to Rocky’s 13 and the Buffs went into the locker room trailing by seven, 24-17.
Unlike the night before, the Buffs never fully recovered. They trailed by as many as eight at one point in the fourth quarter when they began mounting a comeback. Aided by Rocky Mountain misfires from the foul line the Buffs got within two and had the ball with less than 20 seconds to play but couldn’t convert an open look on a three-ball.
“I think every game we play on the road in our conference is tough — but probably Rocky Mountain moreso than the others,” said Prather. “It’s been a great rivalry over the years. They have a good team, we think we have a good team. For four quarters, the two teams got after it. It was an entertaining game to watch, but for the third time this year, we came up two points short.”
Prather’s prediction that the game would be a contrast in styles proved true, as the Buffs did, in fact, lean on their bigs, who had a big edge in size. Jackson again led the way with 19, followed by Tracy with 13.
Prather said the Buffs had 24 turnovers — “too many, even against a good team like Rocky Mountain” — and couldn’t come up with a defensive stop when they needed one in the fourth quarter.
“Credit to Rocky…they shot well from the field and they were patient offensively,” said Prather. “They waited until they found a hole in our zone. Maybe a stop or two somewhere in the second half and the outcome might have been different. But that’s basketball. They practice, too. Our kids did a good job giving themselves a chance to win.”
The weekend split left the Buffs at 8-4 overall, 1-1 in conference play, which continues this week with games at Shoshoni Friday night at Riverside on Saturday afternoon.
Of the Wranglers, Prather said, “This isn’t your mom and dad’s Shoshoni team. They’ve had some tough luck in recent years, but this year, they’ve got a couple kids, Parish and Medicine Cloud, who are really fine players. They’ve got some size and they’ve got some good wins to their credit already. This will be the first time we’ve traveled to Shoshoni in awhile; if we aren’t ready, they’re going to be a tough lot to handle.”
Riverside is also enjoying more success than it has in recent years and will take a better than .500 record into Saturday game in their home gym.
Thermop 16 5 9 15 — 45
Greybull 4 22 19 18 — 63
THERMOP — Roling 7 1-2 16, Jensen 3 3-4 10, Cornwell 4 2-4 12, Schwalbe 2 0-1 4, Herold 1 0-2 3. Totals 17 6-13 45.
GREYBULL — Fabian Davila 3 1-2 8, Wyatt Nielson 1 0-0 3, Calder Forcella 0 2-2 2, Jordan Jackson 9 6-10 24, Ryan Sylvester 3 0-2 6, Cade Dooley 1 0-0 2, Zack Zeller 2 1-2 5, Treston Tracy 5 2-2 13. Totals 24 12-20 63.
3-POINT GOALS — Cornwell 2, Roling, Jensen, Herold; Davila, Nielson, Tracy. REBOUNDS — Greybull 45 (Tracy 10). STEALS — Greybull 7. ASSISTS — Greybull 18 (Zeller 5). TURNOVERS — Greybull 18.
Greybull 11 6 18 17 — 52
Rocky Mt. 11 13 14 16 — 54
GREYBULL — Davila 2 2-2 6, Forcella 2 0-0 4, Jackson 8 2-2 19, Keegan Jenness 0 1-2 1, Sylvester 3 1-3 7, Zeller 1 0-0 2, Tracy 6 0-1 13. Totals 22 6-10 52.
ROCKY MT — Simmons 4 3-5 12, Despain 2 0-1 4, Houracho 0 1-2 1, Winland 9 1-4 19, Wambeke 2 0-2 4, Coleman 5 4-6 14. Totals 22 9-20 54.
3-POINT GOALS — Jackson, Tracy; Simmons. REBOUNDS — Greybull 34 (Tracy 10). STEALS — Greybull 11 (Forcella 4). ASSISTS — Greybull 13 (Zeller 4). TURNOVERS — Greybull 24.