by nathan oster
Overcoming both a 16-point loss in Ethete the night before and a short night of sleep after a long bus ride, the Greybull Buffs kept their hopes of a conference championship alive Saturday evening by crushing Thermopolis 77-37.
The win set the stage for the biggest game of the season in the Class 2A Northwest Conference, a showdown Friday night at Buff Gym between conference frontrunner Rocky Mountain and a Buff team that will be looking for revenge after losing earlier in the season in Cowley.
“I was really proud of the boys,” said Coach Jim Prather. “It would have been easy, after a big game the night before and not getting home until midnight, to overlook a team like Thermopolis, which can be dangerous when they are hitting their shots.
“From the opening tip, we were efficient offensively, and defensively, we didn’t let (Tyler) Cornwell get loose. (He finished with seven points.). It was a solid, team effort, especially without Zack.”
As in Zeller. The team’s starting point guard, he was sick and played sparingly in Ethete and not at all in Thermopolis. His teammates were asked to step up — and they did.
Unlike the first meeting, in which Thermop led after one quarter, the rematch was a no doubter from the opening tip. Treston Tracy sparked the Buffs early, netting nine in the first to help stake his team to a 23-8 lead.
Thermopolis trailed by 14 at the half and was unable to make a serious run, scoring just 11 points in the second half while the Buffs were putting up 37. The result was a 40-point win, which was the perfect tonic coming off what happened the night before in Ethete.
Facing a ranked Wyoming Indian team in its home lair, the Buffs were in a position to pull the upset until things started to go awry late in the third quarter. Suddenly, a game that had been close all the way changed. Greybull went from being down two to down seven after three and eventually losing by 16.
Prather said poor free-throw shooting set the stage for his team’s demise.
“There was a stretch there where we went one of seven from the line and they went down every time and scored a big bucket or hit a three,” he said. “It went from being a two-point game to being a nine or 10-point game.
“Free throws are such a huge part of momentum. If you make them, you play with confidence and perhaps the other team starts to doubt a little. But if you miss them they are demoralizing and they give the other team that much more confidence.”
Greybull finished the night 8 of 19, or 42 percent, from the stripe.
The Chiefs went 11 of 16 from the line — but were even more deadly from further out, burying nine three-pointers, five of which came in the third quarter.
“I thought we defended well throughout the course of the game,” said Prather. “But when you guard well and can’t get anything on the offensive end, it can be a little disheartening. Credit our kids, though. They competed well.
“The final score was nowhere close to being indicative of how close that game was.”
Greybull’s advantage in size showed in the final stats, as Jordan Jackson led the way with 18 followed by Treston Tracy with 13. Guard Ryan Sylvester also finished in double digits with 10.
Prather said that for being without their starting point guard for much of the game, the Buffs did pretty well against the tough Wyoming Indian press. The 19 turnovers were “a manageable number for us” against a team that likes to put a lot of pressure on the ball.
“Maybe at some point, we’ll see Wyoming Indian again,” said Prather. “But for us last week was all about the conference game. We had an opportunity to sweep, to put a team behind us in the standings, and we did that.”
The next-to-last week of the regular season will be a busy one for the Buffs, who play in Burlington today (Thursday, Feb. 12) before returning home to host Rocky Mountain on Friday night and Shoshoni on Saturday afternoon.
Given his druthers, Burlington would be the final game of that three-game stretch.
But instead the Huskies are up first. Once again, they’re among the elite teams in 1A.
Burlington won the first meeting 54-43.
The Rocky game is the big one. A Greybull win would avenge a 54-52 loss earlier in the season in Cowley and create a two-way tie for first in the league, which is especially important in a year in which teams in the Southwest Conference are thriving. The No. 1 seed from the Northwest gets the No. 4 seed from the Southwest in the opening round.
“Our games with Rocky Mountain have been close and they’ve had a lot of implications the past few years,” said Prather. “It won’t be any different this year. Both teams will be motivated. A county rivalry, it’s going to be a fun game to watch for fans and a great game for the players to play in.
The Buffs own a win over Shoshoni already (65-48) and will be looking to complete the season sweep on Saturday afternoon.
Greybull 13 19 13 9 — 54
Wyo. Indian 11 24 17 18 — 70
GREYBULL — Fabian Davila 1 0-0 2, Wyatt Nielson 1 1-3 3, Calder Forcella 1 0-2 2, Jordan Jackson 7 4-5 18, Keegan Jenness 1 2-4 4, Ryan Sylvester 4 1-3 10, Dawson Forcella 1 0-0 2, Treston Tracy 6 0-2 13. Totals 22 8-17 54.
WYOMING INDIAN — Valdez 4 4-4 14, Mosqueda 6 2-2 17, Trosper 0 2-2 2, Her Many Horses 5 2-6 12, Aragon 2 0-0 4, Sazoe 4 0-0 11, Tiger 2 1-2 5, Big Lake 1 0-0 3, Underwood 1 0-0 2. Totals 25 11-16 70.
3-POINT GOALS — Sylvester, Tracy; Valdez 2, Mosqueda 3, Sazoe 3, Big Lake. REBOUNDS — Greybull 33 (Jackson, Tracy 7). STEALS — Greybull 14 (Zeller 4). ASSISTS — Greybull 10 (Sylvester 3). TURNOVERS — Greybull 19.
Greybull 23 17 24 13 — 77
Thermop 8 18 5 6 — 37
GREYBULL — Dustin Fox 2 0-0 4, Nielson 2 2-4 7, C Forcella 2 3-4 8, Jackson 7 2-3 16, Jenness 0 2-6 2, Sylvester 3 0-0 7, Cade Dooley 6 1-3 13, D. Forcella 1 2-4 4, Tracy 7 0-0 16. Totals 30 12-24 77.
THERMOP — J. Roling 4 1-2 10, D. Jensen 4 2-5 10, Cornwell 3 1-2 7, Meier 1 1-2 3, Schwaibe 1 0-0 2, Igov 1 0-0 2, Herold 1 0-0 3. Totals 15 5-11 37.
3-POINT GOALS — Nielson, Forcella, Sylvester, Tracy 2; Roling, Herold. REBOUNDS — Greybull 42 (Tracy 9). STEALS — Greybull 11 (C. Forcella 3). ASSISTS — Greybull 23 (Forcella 5). TURNOVERS — Greybull 10.