After snapping a six-year drought last year, the Greybull Lady Buffs returned to the 2A State Basketball tournament in Casper last weekend. Despite their appearance, an upset in regional seeding cost the Lady Buffs their title hopes; they faced formerly-undefeated Pine Bluffs in their first match, losing to the veteran squad and relegating them to a play-for-your-life consolation bracket.
Although they returned from Casper without a state title, Coach Jeff Hunt felt the girls ended the season on a positive note.
“We had a decent weekend coming home with a win for the first time in a long time,” he said, referring to the Lady Buffs’ 49–43 victory over the Wright Panthers.
After an upset in the regional tournament cost Pine Bluffs a 27-game winning streak, the newly defeated Hornets took the court against the No. 3 Lady Buffs at the start of the tournament.
“We came out very strong and jumped on them quickly,” Hunt said. By the end of the first quarter, the Lady Buffs were leading the Hornets 10–4. They managed to expand their lead to 12 in the second, but according to Hunt, their advantage disappeared quickly.
“We struggled to score in the second quarter and we couldn’t slow their offense down,” he said, attributing the Buffs’ struggles to defensive coverage by their guards.
At the half, the Buffs trailed the Hornets 19–14. Consistent performance by the Hornets in the second half — they scored 15 in both the third and the fourth quarters — ultimately cost the Lady Buffs the match. When compared to the Hornets’ 50 percent shooting from the field, the 30 percent the Lady Buffs shot seemed paltry; likewise, the girls struggled with free throws, going 5–18 from the line – less than 30 percent.
Payten Sorensen led the team in scoring with six points; Kendall Wright and Tatem Edeler followed with five points each, while Emma Mercer and Ky Sorensen had four.
While the team struggled offensively, Hunt said they excelled in keeping Kammie Ragsdale under her point average.
“We shut her down,” Hunt said. “She only had four points in the game and she averaged over 13 points a game coming in.”
Heading to the consolation bracket the next day, the Lady Buffs found themselves matched up against the Wright Panthers in the elimination match.
The loser of the match would head home after that match, failing to advance to the final consolation game.
“They were big and we had a difficult time matching up with their size,” Hunt said. According to him, the Panthers have four players taller than 5’10” – a considerable advantage in playoff matches.
“We knew we’d have a difficult time beating them in rebounds,” he said, further touching on the height disadvantage for their team.
The Lady Buffs started their match out strong, leading the Panthers 15–7 at the end of the first. While the Panthers edged them out in points during the second quarter, the Lady Buffs managed to hang on to the lead.
According to Hunt, the girls did an excellent job contesting their shots, making it difficult to for the Hornets to score. They also did a good job at forcing fouls from their opponents.
“We had to make their bigs foul us and it worked,” he said. “We shot over twice as many free throws — our 17 really made a difference in the game.”
Going 17–38 from the line compared to the Panthers’ 9–18, the Lady Buffs were able to hold on to their lead and secure the win.
Slightly improving on their performance from their match against the Hornets, the Lady Buffs shot 33 percent from the field — a roughly four-percent increase over that match.
Edeler led the team with a monster 15 points; Wright followed with nine while the Sorensons, Ky and Payten, followed with seven and five.
Holding on until the third day, the Lady Buffs took the court against the Southeast Cyclones in a 9 a.m. match.
“This was our third morning game in three days and it showed,” Hunt said. “We had a difficult time getting going and they took advantage.”
While the Lady Buffs trailed by three in the first half, 17–20, the Cyclones came ahead of the pack in the second, putting up double-digit points in both third quarters; the Lady Buffs couldn’t even break 10.
“They jumped out on us and we never could get a flow going on offense,” Hunt said.
While Wright and Edeler posted double-digits, the rest of the Lady Buffs squad couldn’t keep up; individually, both girls posted as many points as the rest of the team.
Despite the loss at state, Hunt looked back on the season and felt a sense of progress and accomplishment.
“We had some huge wins and were definitely a team to beat all season long,” he said. “These girls worked their butts off all season long. We only had three losses this season that were in the double digits — two of those were at the state tournament to great teams.”
Hunt said that next year, things are looking optimistic for the team.
“This is a great group of girls who will be the team to beat on our side next year,” he said. According to him, all but three girls will be returning to the team.
“It’s always tough to lose seniors,” he said, “especially girls who put so much into the program. We will definitely miss them next season.”