by nathan oster
The showdown between Greybull and Pine Bluffs proved to be every bit the slugfest it was expected to be, as the ranked Class 2A heavyweights went toe to toe for 48 minutes before Jordan Jackson sank a free throw with 2.6 seconds remaining to complete a three-point play and give the Buffs a hard-earned 58-57 win.
The victory Friday afternoon at the Tiger Jamboree in Lusk avenged a 47-31 loss to the Hornets in the state tournament’s third-place game. Hunter Thompson, Pine Bluffs’ 6-10 center, was the best player on the floor that day in Casper, scoring 22 points and dominating the paint. But Jordan Jackson, with 17 points and the game winner, and Treston Tracy, with nine, combined to get the better of the Division I recruit in the rematch.
The Buffs followed that stirring victory up with dominating wins over Burns (56-23) and Lusk (66-35) to kept their perfect record intact. They head into the holidays at 7-0, looking forward to games the first week in January against Burlington and possibly Wind River.
Coach Jim Prather said his team faced adversity for the first time against Pine Bluffs.
The Hornets, capitalizing on a pair of three-pointers by Trent Werner and “a number of empty possessions” by the Buffs, turned a three-point deficit after one into a nine-point, 30-21 halftime lead.
It continued in the second half, as the Hornets led by seven after three quarters, 40-33, and by as many as 11 before the Buffs mounted a late charge that was consistent with their season motto, which is “Finish it.”
Dustin Fox hit two three pointers and Jordan Jackson scored seven points to help the Buffs put 25 points on the board in the fourth quarter.
“The key was taking care of the ball,” said Prather. “The Buffs were getting a shot every possession and making them count.
“Defensively, they shut down the lane and limited the Hornets to a single shot at the basket. Pine Bluffs hit 11 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter in a desperate bid to hang onto its lead.”
The final minute was a wild one.
A driving layup by Zack Zeller gave the Buffs a two-point lead with 51 seconds left.
Pine Bluffs rallied, however. Four times in the final minute, Thompson stepped to the line. Four times he converted. So the Buffs trailed by two when, with timing winding down, Jackson took a pretty pass from Zeller, scored the basket and was fouled. He stepped to the line and sank the free throw, giving the Buffs the one-point win.
“The game reflected the character of our team,” he said. “We never got rattled. We never lost focus, even though we fell behind. The team worked together to secure the ball, and when they did that, they really controlled the game.”
Jackson paced the Buffs with 17, followed by Dustin Fox with 14.
Greybull survived 25 turnovers by shooting 53 percent from the field, 50 percent from behind the arc and 73 percent from the foul line.
Greybull’s other two games of the tournament were one-sided affairs.
Eight different Buffs scored in the 33-point win over Burns, with Zeller netting 17 and Tracy 10.
The Buffs struggled from the field (39 percent overall and 3 of 14 from three-point land) but made up for it by turning the ball over only 10 times and playing suffocating defense.
A second win in as many weeks over Lusk punctuated the tournament for the Buffs.
Jackson again had the hot hand, going off for 17 points as he played in front of his family and friends from Lusk, where he attended high school before moving to Greybull. Fox, with 12, and Tracy, with 10, also hit double figures for the victors.
The Buffs scored 16 consecutive points to open the second half, pushing their lead to 47-13.
With seven wins in seven starts, the Buffs are off to a great start.
Here’s how Prather summed up his team heading into the holiday break:
“The team’s chemistry is real strength. I am very pleased with how we look for the open man on offense and share the ball. The result of that team play is excellent shooting from the field right now.
“We will work over the break to get the ball to the spots on offense that will result in more free throw attempts. We need to be able to get to the line consistently in the second half of the season to make up for those games when the outside shots aren’t falling.
“I was proud of how we played against Pine Bluffs; that was the only close game we have had so far this season. We know we will have more of them in the second half of the year, so this game should give us confidence that we can battle back if we fall behind.
“We are looking forward to coming back after the new year and testing ourselves against some top flight competition. A matchup with Wind River would be nice in the Big Horn Basin tournament, and we have Wyoming Indian coming to town later in the season. Those will be great tune-ups for our conference schedule. It is going to be an exciting season of hoops in 2016.”
Greybull 58, Pine Bluffs 57
GREYBULL — Dustin Fox 6 0-0 14, Gabe Keisel 1 0-0 2, Jordan Jackson 6 4-4 17, Cade Dooley 3 0-0 6, Zack Zeller 3 1-2 8, Dawson Forcella 1 0-0 2, Treston Tracy 3 3-4 9. Totals 23-43 8-11 58.
3-POINT GOALS — Fox 2, Jackson, Zeller. REBOUNDS — Greybull 22 (Zeller 6). STEALS — Greybull 17 (Zeller 7). ASSISTS — Greybull 10 (Zeller 4). TURNOVERS — Greybull 25.
Greybull 56, Burns 23
GREYBULL — Fox 4 0-0 9, Clancy Stoffers 2 0-0 4, Jackson 1 0-0 2, Dooley 3 0-1 6, Zeller 8 0-0 17, Forcella 2 1-2 6, Erick Vicencio 1 0-0 2, Tracy 4 2-2 10. Totals 25-64 3-5 56.
3-POINT GOALS — Fox, Zeller, Forcella. REBOUNDS — Greybull 31 (Stoffers 5). STEALS — Greybull 20 (Fox, Dooley, Zeller, Tracy 3 apiece). ASSISTS — Greybull 12 (Fox 5). TURNOVERS — Greybull 10.
Greybull 66, Lusk 35
GREYBULL — Fox 5 0-0 12, Keisel 2 3-4 7, Stoffers 2 1-1 5, Jackson 5 7-8 17, Hayden Howe 0 0-2 0, Dooley 1 3-4 5, Zeller 2 0-2 5, Forcella 2 0-0 5, Tracy 5 0-2 10. Totals 24-41 14-23 66.
3-POINT GOALS — Fox 2, Zeller, Forcella. REBOUNDS — Greybull 32 (Tracy 6). STEALS — Greybull 16 (Zeller 6). ASSISTS — Greybull 21 (Zeller 7). TURNOVERS — Greybull 14.