by nathan oster
“Finish it” has been the mantra all season long for the Greybull Buffs — and finish it they did last week, winning at Rocky Mountain Thursday night and on their home floor against Riverside Friday to complete a perfect season in the Class 2A Northwest Conference.
Greybull, now 19-3 overall, earned the league’s No. 1 seed and will open the Class 2A West Regional today (Thursday, Feb. 25) with a 12:30 p.m. contest against Lyman in the Riverton High School gymnasium.
“We finished the (regular season) about as well as we might have expected,” said Coach Jim Prather.
The wins didn’t come easily — particularly the one in Cowley, which has historically been a tough place to play for the Buffs. Halfway through, it looked like the game might go down to the wire.
As they did in the first meeting, the Grizzlies again showed a penchant for buzzer beaters. They hit four in the first meeting, and picked right up in the rematch, beating the clock with threes at the end of both the first and second quarters. The latter gave Rocky a 21-20 lead.
The Buffs took control in the third, outscoring Rocky 17-6 and halting the Grizzlies’ string of buzzer-beaters at six. The 11-point swing proved to be the final margin, as the Buffs prevailed 54-43.
Prather liked his team’s defensive effort, even in the first half. Take away the two buzzer-beaters and Rocky scored just 15 other points before halftime.
Greybull didn’t shoot particularly well from the field, finishing just 19 of 56 (34 percent), but fared far better than the Grizzlies from the line. The Buffs hit 13 of 20 from the stripe, Rocky Mountain 12 of 27.
Zack Zeller netted 15, Jordan Jackson 13 and Treston Tracy 11 for the Buffs.
The win clinched the conference title for the Buffs — and allowed them to play in a more relaxed fashion the next night against Riverside. Prather made adjustments to his lineup, starting Erick Aguilar alongside fellow seniors Zack Zeller, Treston Tracy and Jordan Jackson.
“We wanted to make sure we gave proper recognition to four seniors who put a lot of time into our program … and to make sure that the fans and their families got a chance to see them play for the last time at home” said Prather.
All four scored in their final performances at Buff Gym, with Tracy pouring in 21, Jackson 13, Zeller six and Aguilar two.
When it comes to the regional, nothing comes easily. The Buffs won the region crown last year by stringing together three quality performances. To do it again, they will have to fend off another very strong field, headlined by No. 1-ranked Wind River.
Greybull faces Lyman in the opening round.
The Eagles are the No. 4 seed from the Southwest, and while they do not have a winning record, that’s somewhat misleading, Prather said, because the Eagles play a lot of 3A and 4A schools.
He described them as “a long, athletic group of kids that can really shoot the ball. They aren’t deep — they’ll play about six kids most of the time — but all six of them score between six and 13 points a game.”
The key for the Buffs will be slowing down point guard True Lueck, who averages about 14 points per game. Prather said the Buffs will also look to take advantage of their size on the offensive end.
Big Piney and Shoshoni play in the other opening round game on Greybull’s side of the bracket. The Buffs are familiar with the Wranglers, having beaten them twice, but not as much with the Punchers.
Prather said he’s long been an admirer of the Big Piney program. Jordan Banks is their top player. “They play a lot like us, in that they will guard well, rebound well and do a lot of the little things well,” said Prather. “Banks is one of the best players in 2A.”
Wyoming Indian was initially penciled into the bracket as the No. 2 seed from the Southwest, but the Chiefs exceeded the six-quarter limit in the usage of one of their players in a game last weekend. The forfeit loss created a three-way tie for second. Big Piney snuck out of it with the No. 2 seed, Wyoming Indian No. 3 and Lyman No. 4.
So the other side of the bracket will be loaded, with No. 1 Wind River facing off against the winner of the Thermopolis/Riverside pigtail game in one matchup and the Chiefs facing Rocky Mountain in the other.
The Buffs have lost only three games all season — once to Wyoming Indian, once to Wind River and once to Big Horn and will enter the regional riding a four-game winning streak.
“I feel like we’re peaking at the right time,” said Prather. “These past couple weeks, we’ve played some quality teams in our league and we were able to win those by double figures. That suggests we were in control throughout, and that’s what good teams do this time of year.”
Greybull 12 8 17 17 — 54
Rocky Mt. 9 12 6 16 — 43
GREYBULL — Dustin Fox 1 0-0 3, Gabe Keisel 1 0-0 3, Clancy Stoffers 0 1-2 1, Jordan Jackson 5 3-4 13, Cade Dooley 1 1-5 3, Zack Zeller 7 0-0 15, Dawson Forcella 1 3-4 5, Treston Tracy 3 3-5 11. Totals 19 13-20 54.
ROCKY MT — Everett 0 1-2 1, Simmons 3 5-11 12, McFarlane 2 0-0 5, Wambeke 2 3-6 9, Price 1 0-0 3, Banks 5 3-8 13. Totals 13 12-27 43.
3-POINT GOALS — Fox, Keisel, Zeller; Wambeke 2, Price, McFarlane, Simmons. REBOUNDS — Greybull 48 (Tracy 10, Jackson 9). STEALS — Greybull 9 (Zeller 4). ASSISTS — Greybull 13 (Fox 6). TURNOVERS — Greybull 13 (Fox 4, Forcella 4). TURNOVERS — Greybull 13.
Riverside 12 4 9 8 — 37
Greybull 18 14 7 18 — 57
RIVERSIDE — Wildman 1 0-0 3, Vigil 5 3-4 14, Spurlock 1 0-0 2, Miller 0 0-1 0, Vigil 0 0-2 0, Hanson 1 0-0 3, Anderson 2 0-3 4, Sherburne 3 3-4 9. Totals 14 6-14 37.
GREYBULL — Dustin Fox 2 0-0 4, Dante Sylvester 0 2-2 2, Clancy Stoffers 1 0-2 2, Jordan Jackson 4 5-8 13, Hayden Howe 1 0-0 2, Zack Zeller 1 3-4 6, Braeden Tracy 1 1-1 3, Dawson Forcella 1 0-0 2, Erick Vicencio 1 0-0 2, Treston Track 8 2-3 21. Totals 20 13-20 57.
3-POINT GOALS — Wildman, Vigil, Hanson; Tracy 3, Zeller. REBOUNDS — Greybull 27 (Tracy, Jackson 7). STEALS — Greybull 24 (Fox 9). ASSISTS — Greybull 20 (Zeller 10). TURNOVERS — Greybull 22.