Buffs pad conference lead

BUFFS Ryan dribbles

by nathan oster

The Greybull Buffs seized the upper hand in the race for the Class 2A Northwest Conference title last week by beating Rocky Mountain, their closest pursuer in the standings, and Thermopolis at Buff Gym.

With the wins, the Buffs improved to 5-0 in conference play, with just three conference matchups remaining on the schedule — one at home against Riverside, the two others on the road against Rocky Mountain and Lovell.

Not only did the 62-53 win over the Grizzlies on Thursday further pad the Buffs’ lead in the conference race, but it also represented a breakthrough of sorts for the Greybull boys.

“Rocky Mountain has been a tough matchup for us,” said Coach Jim Prather. “In fact, we haven’t gotten a win against them in two years.  You have to go back three years to find the last time we beat them. They’ve had our number.”

Early on, it looked like that would continue.  The Grizzlies led by five after one quarter, 16-11, before the Buffs caught and surged ahead of the visitors in the second quarter.

Prather attributed the 16-5 run to “an adjustment we made in our zone defense.” Rocky hit four three-pointers before that adjustment, but just one over the course of the final three quarters afterward.

At the half, Greybull led by six, 27-21.

The Buffs never trailed again — although Rocky Mountain kept it close to the end.

Midway through the third, after the Grizzlies had cut the lead to two, 36-34, Ryan Sylvester hit three-pointers on back-to-back possession, which stretched the Greybull lead back up to eight, 42-34.  He finished with nine in the quarter, 12 for the game.

But the Buffs still needed their stars to shine down the stretch.  Rocky wouldn’t go away.  In fact, the Grizzlies were down by just one, and needed only a free throw to knot the game at 50 apiece.  They didn’t get it — and from that point on, Greybull outscored Rocky 12-4, with Treston Tracy netting four and Kason Clutter six in the decisive fourth quarter.

Clutter finished with 18, Sylvester 12 and Tracy 11 for Greybull, which shot 42 percent from the field.

Prather said the keys to the victory were his team’s work on the boards — Greybull finished with 37 boards — and on the defensive end. Through their press, the Buffs didn’t force a lot of turnovers, “but we cut down on driving lanes and pushed the ball away from the spots where they wanted it to go, especially in the second half.”

The three-pointers by Sylvester were huge, Prather said. “I’ve talked with Ryan and told him, that’s a role we want him to play,” said Prather. “When he’s open, and when other teams are focusing on stopping Kason, Treston and Payton, Ryan needs to step up and take the shot.”

Prather also credited Logan Jensen and Zack Zeller for sparking the team off the bench.

“When you press and play an up-tempo game, you’re not going to play five kids for 32 minutes,” he said.  “You need guys who can contribute off the bench.”

The Buffs followed that up with a 65-47 win over Thermopolis on Friday night.

The game resembled the one earlier this month in Thermopolis, which Greybull won by 27.

In both, the Buffs focused on slowing the Bobcats’ primary scorers, Skylar Thomas and Cornwell.  The duo combined for just 18 Friday night, with Thomas netting 10 and Cornwell eight.

Prather called it “a workmanlike effort,” noting, “There’s no question our focus and attention had been on Rocky Mountain.  I wasn’t surprised to see a little letdown.  But we went about our business.  It was one of those games where we could get any shot we wanted … it was just a matter of shutting them down.”

Clutter had one of his best all-around games of the season, finishing an assist short of a triple double. He tallied 12 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and had nine assists and three steals.  “Every night he plays well, but to be one assist from a triple double … There haven’t been many of those during my tenure here. It’s a good indicator of how involved he was in many facets of the game.”

Tracy also had a big game for the Buffs, connecting on 9 of 16 shots and finishing with 18 points and 11 points.

 

This week

The Buffs have only game on the slate this weekend — and it’s a non-conference test Saturday at Tongue River. Like the Grizzlies, the Eagles have given the Buffs fits in recent years — especially in their new gym in Dayton.

“I planted a seed before everyone left for the weekend,” said Prather.  “I told the kids we haven’t played very well over there and that this would be a good year to rectify that.”

Tongue River is 3-11, but according to Prather, has the type of team that has traditionally given the Buffs fits, with good quickness on the perimeter, an ability to spread the floor and knock down a lot of three pointers.

 

Rocky Mt. 16   5 15 17 — 53

Greybull 11 16 15 20 — 62

ROCKY MT — Mangus 1 0-0 2, Higgins 2 0-2 4, Jewell 6 0-0 13, Horrocks 0 1-2 1, Winland 1 0-0 2, Simmons 6 2-2 16, Simmons 2 0-0 4, Coleman 3 3-4 11.  Totals 21 6-10 53

GREYBULL — Payton Gonzalez 2 2-3 6, Fabian Davila 1 0-0 2, Kason Clutter 9 0-0 18, Ryan Sylvester 4 1-2 12, Paul Stewart 2 4-7 8, Zack Zeller 1 0-1 2, Bryce Wright 1 1-2 3, Treston Tracy 4 2-2 11.  Totals 24 10-17 62.

3-POINT GOALS — Sylvester 3, Tracy; Simmons 2, Coleman 2, Jewell.   REBOUNDS — Greybull 37 (Clutter 10, Stewart 9).  STEALS — Greybull 17 (Stewart 6).  ASSISTS — Greybull 15 (Clutter 6).  TURNOVERS — Greybull 20.

 

Thermop   3 10 20 14 — 47

Greybull 14 10 20 21 — 65

THERMOPOLIS — Thomas 3 3-5 10, Rollings 1 2-2 5, Shaffer 3 0-0 6, Cornwell 3 2-4 8, Waller 3 0-3 7, Herold 1 4-5 6, Rush 2 0-1 5.  Totals 16 11-20 47.

GREYBULL — Gonzalez 2 1-3 6, Davila 2 0-0 4, Wyatt Nielson 1 0-0 3, Calder Forcella 1 0-0 2, Clutter 5 2-2 12, Sylvester 1 1-2 3, Stewart 4 1-4 9, Zeller 0 2-2 2, Wright 1 2-4 4, Logan Jensen 1 0-0 2, Tracy 9 0-0 18.  Totals 27 9-17 65.

3-POINT GOALS — Gonzalez, Nielson;  Thomas, Rolling, Waller, Rush.  REBOUNDS — Greybull — 50 (Clutter 13).   STEALS — Greybull 13 (Clutter, Sylvester 3).  ASSISTS — Greybull 24 (Clutter 9).  TURNOVERS — Greybull 21.