Buff cagers qualify for State

by nathan oster

The Greybull Buffs are headed back to the state tournament after knocking off Big Piney and Kemmerer and capturing fourth place at last weekend’s Class 2A West Regional Tournament in Riverton.

The wins came sandwiched between losses to Wyoming Indian in Thursday’s opening round and to Lovell in Saturday’s third-place game.

But big picture, those didn’t matter.

The Buffs accomplished their goal.

“We had talked all week in preparation for the tournament that the goal was just to get through the weekend and move on to Casper,” said Coach Jim Prather. “We didn’t care, from the standpoint of whether we lost our first game or our second game – if we would have been fortunate enough to win our first game.

“Win two before we lose two…that was our mantra.”

That mindset came in handy after the opener, a crushing 68-63 loss to the Chiefs that had to feel like one that got away.  Crushed earlier in the season in Ethete, the Buffs were competitive throughout and even led at one point in the fourth quarter before faltering in the final minute.

“The kids just played a fantastic game,” said Prather, who credited his assistant, Nolan Tracy, for his work on the bench in his absence. “One of the goals going in was to be better defensively, and as the final indicated, we made real progress in that area.”

With Austin Frazier clicking to the tune of 23 and Neil Getzfreid netting 13 and ripping down a man-sized 17 boards, the Buffs gave the Chiefs all they wanted. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.

“The kids were pretty grounded after the game … we knew we weren’t done,” Prather said. “We had played in an exciting game, in a great environment, but we knew that there was unfinished business to be taken care of, and the next day the kids came out and played with a purpose.”

The victim was Big Piney.  The loser-out game was all Greybull, as the Buffs raced out to a 12-1 first-quarter lead and never looked back, winning 59-29.  Frazier tossed in 17 and Kason Clutter 14 to key the victory.

What that game lacked in drama was made up in the Saturday morning, state tourney qualifier between the Buffs and Kemmerer.  With a state tourney berth on the line, the two teams traded blows for four quarters before a couple of free throws by Frazier with 1 second to play secured a 47-45 win for the Buffs.

“It wasn’t our best game,” said Prather, whose team led by as many as 10 at one point before seeing the Rangers put on a late charge to tie it with 30 seconds to go.  The Buffs tried going for the last shot, but a turnover cost them that opportunity.

Kemmerer returned the favor, however, with a turnover of its own that gave the Buffs the ball with 2.5 seconds left. Frazier was bringing the ball up the floor, 50 feet from the basket, when he was fouled by a Kemmerer kid “who was just trying to make a play,” according to Prather.

The Greybull senior calmly stepped to the line and drilled both, giving the Buffs a two-point lead.  Kemmerer’s last-second bid to tie was unsuccessful, and the Buffs were on to state.

“We’ve been saying all season long that at some point, free throws were either going to cost us a game or win us a game,” Prather said.  “Poor free-throw shooting probably cost us a league championship, because there were a couple games we could have won if we’d shot better at the line.  This was one time when we really came through.”

In addition to Frazier’s clutch two, Hayden Goton also had a pair of clutch free throws late.

Clutter was the only Buff in double figures finishing with 17.

With their Casper trip secured, the Buffs didn’t have much to gain in the third-place game, and with a couple of starters “gimpy” and “banged up from a long season” Prather substituted freely throughout in a 70-46 loss to Lovell.

“Our goal was simply not to get anyone hurt,” Prather said. “We had qualified for Casper.”

Clutter was the top scorer with 14.

Prather said it was a good weekend for everyone, but singled out Clutter for “a phenomenal weekend” in which he exceeded every one of the team’s offensive goals, including shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from behind the arc and averaging 15 points per game.

And while he didn’t light it up statistically, senior Travis Sylvester drew praise for his defense. “He’s the heart and soul of our defense,” said Prather. “He worked so hard against Soundingsides, and in the two games we needed to win, he was just outstanding.  He’s the focal point of what we do on defense and is a real leader in terms of his hustle and style of play.”

On to State

The Buffs will be returning to Casper after a year away.  Two years ago, in 2010, the Buffs made it to the semifinals before eventually losing and placing fourth.

“I feel great for the kids,” said Prather. “It validates all their hard work and effort (and for their decision to make) a year-round commitment to the sport of basketball. It’s a goal of ours to make it to Casper every year, and this year, we felt we had the kids with the experience and the desire to get there.  It was great to see it all work out for them.”

As the No. 4 seed, the Buffs drew Moorcroft, which won the East Regional and was champion of the Northeast Conference.  The two teams will square off today (Thursday, March 1) at 9 p.m. at Casper College.

What’s known about the Wolves?  They beat Tongue River three times, including once in come-from-behind fashion at the regional tournament, and split with Big Horn during the regular season.

Prather called them “a quality opponent,” but one the Buffs should match up well with. “They’re athletic, they have a couple of seniors who have placed at state and are nice players,” he said. “They’ll play a style similar to Lovell.”

Wyoming Indian and Burns are on the other teams on Greybull’s side of the bracket.  If they beat Moorcroft, the Buffs will face the winner of that game Friday at 9 p.m. at the Events Center.   If they lose, they’ll play the loser of that game at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

The Buffs have seen the Chiefs twice.  Burns, meanwhile, was the champion of the Southeast Conference — although it mustered just a third-place finish at its regional.  “They return a veteran crew from last year’s team which was the consolation champions at the state tournament,” said Prather.

In any game, the keys for the Buffs, in Prather’s estimation, include “taking care of the basketball, finding the hot players and rebounding the ball.

“If we do those three things,” Prather said, “then we should have as good a chance as anyone down there.”

Greybull 14 11 22 15 – 63

Wyo. Indian 23   9 17 17 – 68

GREYBULL – Austin Frazier 8 4-5 23, Wyatt Good 1 0-0 2, Kason Clutter 7 2-2 17, Travis Sylvester 1 0-2 2, Neil Getzfreid 4 5-8 13, Hayden Goton 3 0-0 6.  Totals 24 11-17 63.

WYO. INDIAN – Aragon 2 0-0 5, Clifford 1 0-0 2, Howell 5 1-2 11, Mitchell 1 0-0 2, Spoonhunter 8 0-2 21, Soundingsides 6 6-10 21, Williamson 2 2-6 6.  Totals 26 9-22 68.

3-POINT GOALS – Frazier 3, Clutter.  Spoonhunter 3, Soundingsides 3, Aragon.  REBOUNDS – Greybull 41 (Getzfreid 17).  STEALS – Greybull 11 (Clutter, Sylvester 4).  ASSISTS – Greybull 13 (Sylvester 5).  TURNOVERS – Greybull 32.

Greybull 12 17 15 15 – 59

Big Piney   1 15   6   7 – 29

GREYBULL – Frazier 7 2-3 17, Edward DeCabooter 1 0-0 2, Good 0 1-2 1, Clutter 6 0-0 14, Quinton  Haley 2 1-2 5, Sylvester 1 0-0 2, Getzfreid 5 3-6 13, Goton 2 0-0 4, Brady Shoemaker 0 1-2 1.  Totals 24 8-15 59.

BIG PINEY –  Howard 3 1-4 7, Sims 2 0-2 4, Barron 1 4-4 6, Jones 0 0-1 0, Stovenburg 0 1-2 1, Jones 5 1-7 11. Totals 11 7-20 29.

3-POINT GOALS – Clutter 2, Frazier 1.  REBOUNDS – Greybull 27 (Getzfreid 6).  STEALS – Greybull 15 (Sylvester 6).  ASSISTS – Greybull 14 (Clutter 5).  TURNOVERS – Greybull 12.

Greybull 17 11 12 7 – 47

Kemmerer 16   8 13 7 – 45

GREYBULL – Frazier 1 5-6 7, Good 1 0-0 3, Clutter 8 0-1 16, Haley 1 1-2 3, Sylvester 3 0-0 6, Getzfreid 3 0-1 6, Goton 2 2-2 6. Totals 19 8-12 47.

KEMMERER – Fagnet 1 3-4 5, Mogen 2 2-2 7, Nishi 4 0-1 9, Simpson 1 0-0 3, Annali 4 0-0 8, Martinez 5 2-2 12.  Totals 17 7-9 44.

3-POINT GOALS – Good; Mogen, Nishi, Simpson.  REBOUNDS – Greybull 29 (Getzfreid 9).  STEALS – Greybull 10 (Sylvester 4).  ASSISTS – Greybull 10 (Frazier 4).  TURNOVERS – Greybull 20.

Greybull   9 17 11   9 – 46

Lovell 20 24 11 13 – 70

GREYBULL – Gonzalez 2 0-0 6, Frazier 2 0-0 5, DeCabooter 2 2-2 6, Clutter 5 0-0 14, Haley 1 3-4 5, Sylvester 2 0-0 4, Stewart 0 1-2 1, Getzfreid 1 1-2 3, Shoemaker 1 0-0 2.  Totals 16 7-10 46.

LOVELL – May 8 5-7 25, McArthur 2 0-0 5, Pickert 1 0-0 3, Hinckley 1 0-0 3, May 3 1-1 7, Baxendale 2 3-4 7, Hultgren 2 1-1 5, Clark 2 0-1 4, Savage 3 5-6 11.  Totals 24 15-20 70.

3-POINT GOALS – Clutter 4, Gonzalez 2, Frazier; May 4, McArthur, Pickert, Hinckley.  REBOUNDS – Greybull 34 (Getzfreid 9).  STEALS – Greybull 7 (Sylvester 3).  ASSISTS – Greybull 10 (Sylvester 4).  TURNOVERS – Greybull 36.