By Marlys Good
The Lady Buffs knew going into the tournament in Riverton last weekend that the odds were they would face WIHS for the West Regional championship Saturday afternoon. They had played the Chiefs late in the season and lost to a team Coach Jeff Hunt described as one of the best they had faced all season.
At the final buzzer Saturday WIHS won the title with a decisive 60-37 victory, and Hunt put a rubber stamp on his previous statement.
“They are athletic and their press has been very difficult for every team they have played. Our goal was to slow them down as much as possible and we did a great job doing that early.”
The Buffs were patient on offense and played well defensively in the first half. The 15-6 lead the Chiefs held at the end of the first quarter was cut to six with 30 seconds to go before halftime.
Then, as happens a lot when you play the Chiefs, one of their players hit an “off-balance” three to give them a nine-point, 27-18 lead going into the locker room.
Although the 27-18 lead was manageable, the Indians came out and put up 16 points in the third while the Buffs struggled offensively. Hunt said, “We just couldn’t get the shot we were looking for and we had a few too many turnovers early in the quarter.” Give the Chiefs an opening and they take it.
Greybull managed just five points in the third to go down 43-23. “And we just couldn’t get back in the game,” Hunt said. “We had to try a few different things late to close the gap, but they shot well and finished when they needed to.”
Kendall Wright was the only Buff in double digits, with 12 points; Payten Sorensen had seven boards.
The road to the title game started with Kemmerer Thursday, a team the Buffs had faced in the first round of the 2018 tournament.
After a slow start, and despite missing several layups, Greybull settled down and controlled every aspect of the game from then on. Greybull’s press caused problems for the Rangers; for the third consecutive game, the Buffs held an opponent to single digit scoring in three quarters. Greybull advanced to he semi-finals with the 66-39 win.
Offensively Greybull did a “great” job getting the ball in the key and 32 of the Buffs’ 66 points were scored there, according to Hunt.
“We did a great job rebounding and taking care of the ball in this game,” Coach Hunt said. Greybull had 42 total rebounds with Tatem Edeler grabbing nine and Sorensen seven.
Wright had the hot hand. The senior shot 50 percent from the field and ended the game with 22 points, including three 3-pointers. Sorensen had a strong game. The junior scored 15 points, hitting 6-of-9 from the field and 2-of-3 from the charity stripe.
Greybull faced Wind River in the semi-finals, a team the Buffs had already beaten twice.
“We always say it’s tough to beat the same team three times,“ Hunt said, “especially a team as athletic as they are. Our goal going in was to shut down at least two of their three scorers and we did. Our offense was a little too much for them.”
Both teams pressed and Hunt said the Buffs had a difficult time getting their half-court offense going. Greybull went up 16-10 at the first quarter stop and held the 26-19 advantage at halftime.
The Cougars narrowed the gap to 33-29 by the end of the third period. “It came down to our free throws,” Hunt said. “This was fitting since that’s what we struggled with the most last season at the regional tournament.”
Wind River managed just three points in the final eight minutes; Greybull scored just one field goal but was a perfect 10-of-10 from the line to head to the finals with the 45-32 victory.
Wright and Edeler were the only Buffs in double digits with 11 and 10 respectively.
“I was so proud of our girls,” said Hunt. “We did a great job sticking to our game plans and controlling the tempo – at least in the first two games. We knew if we could get by Wind River we would be putting ourselves in a great spot for the state tournament. We’re hoping to see WIHS again in Casper in the championship game. We have a great chance with where we are sitting.”
Greybull kicks off state competition in Casper Thursday afternoon (today) at 4:30 p.m. The Buffs play Niobrara County (Lusk), the No. 3 seed from the East, in the Casper College gym. The two share a bracket with Shoshoni and Southeast.
Winners advance to the semi-finals Friday at 6 p.m. in the Casper Evens Center. Losers drop to the consolation bracket and play a loser-out game at 10:30 a.m. Friday.
The Chiefs share a bracket with Rocky Mountain, Pine Bluffs and Big Horn and are paired with Big Horn in Thursday’s opening round.
Looking at the 2A field, Hunt said the top four teams are probably the two No. 1 teams, WIHS and Southeast, and the 2 teams. But he added, “Lusk (won six of its last eight games and) is playing really well right now. The only team Lusk lost to was Southeast – twice. They have some great players who play as hard as any team going to Casper.
“Southeast is also playing really well and they have a lot of experience. Both of the teams will be tough to get by. I really think anyone down there can upset teams. We are all very similar in record and style of play.”
When it comes right down to it, Hunt said, “WIHS is clearly the team to beat, but I really feel like anyone else can have a great tournament – including us. We have great momentum right now. The last 2A team we lost to, besides Wyoming Indian, was back in December – our second weekend of the season.”
Greybull 66 Kemmerer 39
Greybull 15 19 19 13 – 66
Kemmerer 7 9 9 14 – 39
GREYBULL: Kendall Wright 9 1-2 22; Payten Sorensen 6 2-3 15; Tatem Edeler 3 0-0 6; Kendall Stephens 1 2-2 5; Shayla Cheatham 1 2-2 4; Morgan Haley 2 0-0 4; Hannah Klitzke 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 26-69 8-1 66.
3-POINT GOALS: Wright 3, Sorensen, Mercer. REBOUNDS: 42 (Sorensen 7, Edeler 6, Mercer 5). ASSISTS: 17 (Edeler 5, Cheatham 3, Sorensen 3). STEALS: 13 (Wright 3). TURNOVERS: 10.
Greybull 45, Wind River 32
Greybull 16 10 7 12 – 45
Wind River 10 10 3 – 32
GREYBULL: Wright 2 6-8 11; Edeler 4 2-2 10; Stephens 3 3-5 9; Sorensen 1 2-4 4; Monique Velasquez 2 0-0 6; Mercer 1 1-2 3; Haley 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 14-37 14-21 45.
3-POINT GOALS: Velasquez 2, Wright. REBOUNDS: 27 (Wright 10). ASSISTS: 11 (Sorensen 3, Wright 3). STEALS: 17 (Wright 6, Edeler 6). TURNOVERS: 19.
Greybull 37, WIHS 60
Greybull 6 12 5 12 – 37
WIHS 15 12 16 19 – 60
GREYBULL: Wright 4 4-7 12; Sorensen 3 2-4 8; Edeler 3 0-0 6; Haley 2 0-0 4; Velasquez 1 0-2 2; Stephens 0 2-2 2; Klitzke 0 1-2 1. TOTALS: 13-46 9-16 35.
REBOUNDS: 31 (Sorensen 9, Wright 4). ASSISTS: 4 STEALS: 13 (Sorensen 3, Velasquez 3). TURNOVER: 29.