Buffs place fourth in state field

by nathan oster

As hot as they were going in, the Greybull Buffs couldn’t slow down an even hotter Wind River team in the semifinals of the State 2A Basketball Championships in Casper, losing to eventual state champions 71-58 on Friday night.

The loss, coupled with a 47-18 rout of Lusk in the opening round on Thursday and 47-31 defeat at the hands of Pine Bluffs in Saturday afternoon’s third-place game, left the Buffs with an 18-8 record and a fourth-place finish in the state.

Just one week earlier, the Buffs had won the Class 2A West Regional.

While losing two of three in Casper wasn’t what they had in mind for their final act, Coach Jim Prather took a glass-half-full approach to the tournament and the season as whole.

“You play to win, and sometimes it doesn’t work out that way,” he said. “Our goal every year is to make it to the state tournament and to give ourselves a chance to compete against the best teams in the state.

“When all was said and done, we lost to the eventual state champions (Wind River) and to a team in Pine Bluffs that had been ranked No. 1 in the state pretty much the whole year. I think we had a great year. We just ran into a couple of really good teams.”

A Burns team that had a losing record during the regular season proved to be no test for the Buffs in the opening round. Despite a slow start in which both teams combined to score just six points in the first quarter — Greybull led 4-2 — the Buffs pulled away and never looked back, winning by 29.

Lusk didn’t reach double figures until the fourth quarter.

“Defensively, we played really well,” said Prather. “We knew Burns was going to be deliberate offensively, so we found ourselves in a situation where we wanted to push the tempo and play faster than the other team, which is seldom the case.

“The kids did a great job with the press and defensively. Anytime you can hold your opponent to under 15 percent shooting from the field you like your chances to win.”

Ryan Sylvester, with seven points, sparked an 18-4 Greybull run in the second quarter. The senior finished with a team high 13. Jordan Jackson was also in double figures with 11.

The win sent the Buffs into the semifinals for a rematch with a Wind River team that they’d beaten, but by just two, in the opening round of the Class 2A West Regional eight days earlier in Lander.

A key to that win was the defensive effort against Caleb C’Bearing, who had just nine, far below his season average. The Wind River junior got even in Casper, pouring in 26 points to lead all scorers. He was 13-of-14 from the line, including 9-of-10 in the fourth quarter, when the Cougars outscored the Buffs 24-12 to break open what had been a one-point game through three.

“As well as we defended him in the first game, in the second he proved to be too illusive for us,” said Prather. “With his skill set, he’s tough to guard. We tried to throw a few different things at him — like extending our zone or going man-to-man — but he seemed to have an answer for everything.”

The same can be said for the Cougars as a whole. The team that ended Wyoming Indian’s season a week earlier in Riverton also came up big when it mattered most against the Buffs. As a team they went 16 of 20 from the stripe in the fourth quarter.

“That’s championship caliber shooting,” said Prather. “We couldn’t make a dent in their lead.”

It was a game of runs. Wind River opened strong, beating the Buffs on the boards and taking a three-point lead, 18-15, after one. Greybull asserted itself in the second, going on an 18-7 run to take an eight point lead, 33-25.

The “turning point” came with about 45 seconds to play. The Buffs had the ball and were hoping to hold it for the last shot. A foul ended any hope of that. The Greybull player who stepped to the line missed. Wind River went down and scored. Then, given another opportunity, the Buffs turned it over. Again, the Cougars scored.

“We went from a position of being up eight, and possibly being up 10, to being up only four and giving Wind River all the momentum going into the half,” said Prather. “They capitalized from the beginning of the second half. They hit a three, then a two. All of a sudden we’re down one. The whole dynamics of the game changed from that point.”

Wind River built on its lead, but went into the fourth up just one, thanks to a three at the buzzer from Treston Tracy.

Feasting from the line, the Cougars closed the deal with a 24-12 burst in the fourth quarter.

The Buffs shot 24 of 56, 43 percent, from the field and turned it over just 14 times.

But official stats had them getting outrebounded by 12, a 43-21 margin. Bryce Hankins, Wind River’s other top gun, led the Cougars with 17 caroms.

“For a team that prides itself in being able to rebound, they took us to task in that game,” said Prather.

So instead of going for the championship, the Buffs had to gear up for a third-place matchup against Pine Bluffs, which on Friday night had lost to Rocky Mountain. The Hornets feature 6-9 center Hunter Thompson. Just a sophomore, he’s being recruited by Division I schools. “He’s the real deal,” said Prather. “There aren’t many (Division I prospects) at our level, and he just dominated. We didn’t have an answer for him.” Thompson scored 22 points. Even more important, he was a force defensively, blocking several shots and altering countless others.

Sylvester again led in scoring with 12 for the Buffs, who were hurt by a second quarter in which they were outscored 19-7 and never recovered.

Prather said if someone had said in the preseason that his team would have made it to state and placed fourth, he’d have taken it. “In fact, I would have thought it was an overachievement on our part,” he said. “We had some good players coming back and a nice transfer piece (in Jackson) but we had holes. Over the season we tried to plug those holes. Kids stepped up and did an admirable job learning what their roles were. But other teams out there were good, too.

“When you win, expectations go up a little bit. The regional championship was exciting. The kids played awesome. But the state tournament was a different deal. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but it was still a great season.”

 

Greybull 4 18 11 14 — 47

Burns 2   4   2 12 — 18

GREYBULL — Dustin Fox 1 2-2 4, Fabian Davila 1 0-2 2, Calder Forcella 1 0-0 2, Jordan Jackson 4 2-2 11, Keegan Jenness 0 2-2 2, Ryan Sylvester 6 0-0 13, Cade Dooley 1 0-2 2, Zack Zeller 0 2-2 2, Treston Tracy 3 2-3 9. Totals 17 10-15 47.

BURNS — Fichtner 1 0-0 2, Martin 0 2-3 2, Dibbon 1 0-0 2, Clark 0 4-5 4, Sharpe 1 0-0 2, Singh 0 1-2 1, Jackson 2 0-0 5. Totals 5 7-10 18.

3-POINT GOALS — Jackson, Sylvester, Tracy; Jackson. REBOUNDS — Greybull 32 (Jackson 8). STEALS — Greybull 14 (Davila, Forcella 3). ASSISTS — Greybull 11 (Zeller 6). TURNOVERS — Greybull 15.

 

Greybull 15 18 13 12 — 58

Wind River 18 11 18 24 — 71

GREYBULL — Fox 2 0-0 5, Davila 3 2-2 9, Wyatt Nielson 2 0-0 4, Forcella 2 0-0 4, Jackson 2 1-2 5, Sylvester 3 0-2 6, Zeller 2 0-0 5, Dawson Forcella 2 0-0 4, Tracy 6 3-5 16. Totals 24 6-11 58.

WIND RIVER — C’Bearing 6 13-14 26, Trumble 5 2-6 12, Oats 2 3-5 9, Hankins 4 6-8 16, Roanhorse 1 0-1 2, Cress 1 1-2 4, Tidzump 1 0-0 2. Totals 21 25-36 71.

3-POINT GOALS — Fox, Davila, Zeller, Tracy; Oats 2, C’Bearing, Cress. REBOUNDS — Greybull 31 (Tracy 10). STEALS — Greybull 6 (Sylvester 3). ASSISTS — Greybull 15 (Sylvester 5). TURNOVERS — Greybull 14.

 

Greybull 7   7 13 4 — 31

Pine Bluffs 9 19 12 7 — 47

GREYBULL — Fox 1 0-0 2, Davila 3 1-2 7, Nielson 0 0-1 0, Forcella 0 2-2 2, Jenness 1 0-1 2, Sylvester 5 2-4 12, Zeller 1 0-0 2, D. Forcella 1 0-0 2, Tracy 0 2-4 2. Totals 12 7-14 31.

PINE BLUFFS — Thompson 9 2-2 22, Steeger 1 2-2 4, Gross 6 1-2 13, Jefferies 1 0-0 2, DeLaCruz 1 2-3 5, Graves 0 1-2 1. Totals 18 8-12 47.

3-POINT GOALS — Thompson 2. REBOUNDS — Greybull 26 (Tracy 4). STEALS — Greybull 11 (Sylvester 4). ASSISTS — Greybull 7. TURNOVERS — Greybull 20 (Sylvester 6).