by nathan oster
If there were any lingering effects from their second loss of the season, the Greybull Buffs put them to rest early on Friday night in Thermopolis, scoring the first 14 points of the game en route to a 53-37 win over the Bobcats.
The win, coupled with Saturday evening’s 65-55 thumping of Rocky Mountain, staked the Buffs to an early lead in the Class 2A Northwest Conference race heading into important games this weekend against Shoshoni (an upset winner over Wyoming Indian last week) and Riverside.
Coach Jim Prather said the week’s practice sessions had been devoted to correcting the deficiencies that he noticed in the loss to Big Horn. Perhaps the biggest one was the need to establish a tempo to their liking.
The 14-0 run to start the game did just that. “I’d say for the first one out of the chute (after the Big Horn loss), the kids responded,” said Prather. “The road games in our conference are all in tough venues in which to play. All have distinct home-court advantages.
“We felt, going to Thermopolis, that we had to be ready for a lot of energy, a big crowd and lots of noise. We were able to do what we wanted to do with regards to effort, energy and a consistent level of intensity.”
Tyler Cornwell, a guard, was the focal point of the Greybull defense. Thermop’s best player, he never got on track, as the Buffs held him scoreless until the fourth quarter. He finished with just six points, far below his average.
Zack Zeller and Treston Tracy gave the Buffs a dynamic inside-outside attack, as point guard Zeller finished with 21 and post Tracy chipped in another 19.
On Saturday, in their 15th game of the season, the Buffs finally got to play on their home floor.
The latest home opener in recent memory, the game brought out a big crowd and the wait was worth it, as the Buffs knocked off the 2015 state runners-up 65-44. A two-point game after one, the Buffs broke it open in the second quarter, outscoring Rocky Mountain 20-10.
With Tracy in foul trouble, other Buffs had to step up their scoring. Zeller again netted 15, as did Jordan Jackson, a senior. Dustin Fox chipped in nine while Cade Dooley contributed eight off the bench.
Prather credited his team for once again taking away Rocky Mountain’s top scoring threat. Cole Wambeke, who like Cornwell is an excellent outside shooter, didn’t make a field goal and finished with just six points.
“The kids did a great job of community on defense and recognizing who could hurt us,” said Prather. “Offensively, we shot really well, even though it took us a quarter or so to find our rhythm.”
Prather said Fox, who plays point on defense, did a great job of forcing Wambeke and Cornwell to make the initial pass and that the rest of the Buffs (from Jackson and Zeller on the wings to Dawson Forcella on the baseline) also did a great job of picking them up wherever they were on the court.
With Buffs Gym serving as a wrestling venue this weekend, the Buffs venture back out on the road, with games Friday night in Shoshoni and Saturday in Basin against the resurgent Rebels.
Shoshoni used a buzzer-beater to knock off Wyoming Indian last week.
“They have all their kids back from last year and it’s a talented group that they’ve been waiting for awhile,” said Prather. “Anytime you can start with two really good guards, in Parrish and Medicine Clould, that’s tough to defend. But they also have three very capable post players — all in the 6-3 or 6-4 range, athletic, strong and capable of playing good post defense.”
The Buffs won’t be looking past Riverside, either. “It’s a road game, a rivalry game, and for whatever reason, it’s hard for us to play in that gym. The last few years, we have been able to get wins over there, but it’s seemed like they have been close, hard-fought games. I don’t expect it to be any different this weekend.”
Greybull 18 18 9 8 — 53
Thermop 4 12 10 11 — 37
GREYBULL — Dustin Fox 2 1-2 5, Jordan Jackson 2 2-2 6, Cade Dooley 0 2-2 2, Zack Zeller 9 2-3 21, Treston Tracy 9 0-0 19. Totals 22-59 7-9 53.
THERMOP — Roling 1 1-2 3, Jensen 5 0-0 10, Cornwell 2 1-2 6, Schwalbe 2 0-2 4, Robbins 1 6-6 8, Herold 2 2-2 6. Totals 13 10-14 37.
3-POINT GOALS — Zeller, Tracy; Cornwell. REBOUNDS — Greybull 36 (Jackson 12, Forcella 7). STEALS — Greybull 14 (Fox, Jackson, Zeller 4 each). ASSISTS — Greybull 16 (Fox 4). TURNOVERS — Greybull 13.
Greybull 12 20 13 20 — 65
Rocky Mt. 10 10 14 10 — 44
GREYBULL — Fox 4 0-0 11, Gabe Keisel 1 0-0 2, Clancy Stoffers 1 1-2 3, Jackson 7 1-3 15, Dooley 4 0-0 8, Zeller 5 3-4 15, Dawson Forcella 3 0-0 7, Tracy 2 0-0 4. Totals 27 5-9 65.
ROCKY MT. — Jewell 0 0-1 0, Simmons 5 2-7 14, Estes 5 0-1 10, McFarlane 1 0-0 2, Wambeke 0 6-7 6, Price 1 0-0 3, Banks 1 1-2 3, Williams 3 0-0 6. Totals 16 9-18 44.
3-POINT GOALS — Fox 3, Zeller 2, Forcella; Simmons 2, Price. REBOUNDS — Greybull 33 (Dooley 8). STEALS — Greybull 12 (Jackson, Zeller 3). ASSISTS — Greybull 20 (Zeller 7). TURNOVERS — Greybull 19.