by nathan oster
In a near carbon-copy from their first meeting, Greybull and Rocky Mountain once again went down to the wire Friday night in Cowley. And once again, it was the Grizzlies who came out on top.
This time, the final was 51-49.
Back on Jan. 19 at Buff Gym, it was 54-50.
“They were the better team, for the second time,” said Coach Jim Prather. With it being the Buffs final conference game and the two teams jockeying for the No. 2 seed in the conference race, Prather had made the Grizzlies the focal point of practice last week.
But Rocky Mountain came out blazing, hitting three straight triples to build a quick 9-0 lead.
The Buffs battled back, but were hurt by a pair of buzzer-beating shots in the first half. The first, a running, one-handed 25-footer by Bryce Ward, stretched the Rocky lead to 16-0.
A basket by Cannon Simmons just before the halftime buzzer provided another jolt of momentum for the Grizzlies, who went in at the half leading 26-24.
In spite of all that, the Buffs would not go away. At one point in the fourth quarter, Greybull led by five. With two minutes to go, the game was tied. But just like at Buff Gym, it was the Grizzlies who made the big plays down the stretch.
“We don’t match up well with them,” said Prather. “Their strength is quickness on the perimeter. They start four kids who are quick, shifty-type players, and we just have a hard time matching up with them.
“On top of that, they have a very efficient game plan offensively that involves running the clock, and for them, looking for high percentage shots like lay-ins and wide-open threes.”
Of his team’s early 9-0 deficit and the two momentum-killing, first-half buzzer beaters, Prather said simply, “You can’t overcome plays like that on the road if you aren’t at your best.
“It was disappointing in the sense that despite giving up the three threes early, and despite the two buzzer beaters, we were still able to get a five-point lead in the fourth quarter and we still had our opportunities in the last minute with free throws and possessions that we could have gotten out of there with the win. But we missed the free throws and had a couple of turnovers.
“We have to play our best ball for the duration of the game to win on the road, and that’s especially true come playoff time.”
Statistically it wasn’t a bad game for the Buffs. They had just 14 turnovers and shot a respectable 42 percent from the field. But they didn’t capitalize on their trips to the charity stripe, sinking just 5 of 13, or 38 percent. Rocky didn’t help itself from the line either, as the Grizzlies hit 9 of 29, or 31 percent.
Kason Clutter paced the Buffs with 13, followed by Hayden Goton with eight.
With the loss, the Buffs relinquished the grip on the No. 2 seed in the conference. Heading into the final weekend, Greybull has three conference losses. Rocky has two and plays conference top dog Lovell, but even if they lose, the Grizzlies will own the tiebreaker over the Buffs based on head-to-head meetings.
Does it matter come regional time, being a 2 or a 3?
“I don’t think so,” said Prather. “You are going to have to win two games to advance. Ultimately we are going to have to beat two pretty good basketball teams. It doesn’t matter where you are seeded. In fact, it could be a bright spot. Historically, three seeds have done pretty well in that tournament. Every year, a three seed makes it through. Maybe this year it’ll be us.”
Prather admitted being concerned about how his team would play Saturday against Big Horn, especially given the toughness of the loss just hours earlier in Cowley. But to their credit, the Buffs “dispelled that by playing aggressively from the get go,” Prather said.
Facing a team that had been playing well, and which one night earlier had beaten Tongue River, the Buffs built a 17-10 lead after one, and led at every quarter stop en route to the 61-54 victory.
Greybull’s two big men had big games, with both Hayden Goton and Neil Getzfreid netting 14 points in the win.
“It was a point of emphasis all week to get the ball to certain spots,” Prather said. “In that game, Hayden and Neil had big games. They finished, and when they didn’t, they were able to draw fouls.”
On a positive note, the Buffs were back at full strength, welcoming Quinton Haley back into the rotation. Wyatt Good, who also missed time recently, also contributed quality minutes in both games for the Buffs.
The Buffs will close out the regular season by hosting Tongue River on Friday. Tip times are 4 p.m. for the junior varsity, 5:30 p.m. for the varsity. It will be Senior Night, as the Buffs salute the following players who will be playing for the final time on their home floor: Austin Frazier, Edward DeCabooter, Travis Sylvester, Neil Getzfreid, Hayden Goton and Brady Shoemaker.
To beat Tongue River, the Buffs will need to contain Stephen Yellowtail. They didn’t in the first meeting, a 72-64 win for the Eagles. “If we can do that,” Prather said, “We will give ourselves a good opportunity to win.”
Greybull 10 14 11 14 — 49
Rocky Mt. 16 10 10 15 — 51
GREYBULL — Payton Gonzalez 0 1-2 1, Austin Frazier 3 0-0 6, Wyatt Good 2 2-3 6, Kason Clutter 6 1-3 13, Quinton Haley 1 0-0 2, Travis Sylvester 2 0-2 4, Neil Getzfreid 3 1-2 7, Hayden Goton 4 0-0 8, Brady Shoemaker 1 0-0 2. Totals 22-53 5-13 49.
ROCKY MT — M. Bernhisel 2 5-6 10, S. Wocicki 4 0-2 8, J. Jewell 2 1-5 5, K. Winland 1 0-7 2, D. Romero 4 2-6 14, C. Simmons 2 0-0 4, B. Ward 3 1-3 8. Totals 18 9-29 51.
3-POINT GOALS — Romero 4, Ward, Bernhisel. REBOUNDS — Greybull 31 (Getzfreid 8). STEALS — Greybull 13 (Clutter 3). ASSISTS — Greybull 12 (Clutter 5). TURNOVERS —Greybull 14.
Big Horn 10 14 13 17 — 54
Greybull 17 14 12 21 — 64
BIG HORN — Williams 3 2-2 8, Wigglesworth 9 0-0 19, McCafferty 6 0-2 13, Chapman 0 2-2 2, Mort 1 0-1 2, Ibach 1 0-0 2, Newman 2 0-0 4, Eisele 2 0-0 4. Totals 24 4-7 54.
GREYBULL — Frazier 4 4-5 12, Edward DeCabooter 1 0-0 2, Good 1 0-0 2, Clutter 2 2-2 7, Haley 2 2-3 6, Sylvester 1 3-5 5, Getzfreid 5 4-4 14, Goton 6 2-6 14, Shoemaker 1 0-0 2. Totals 23 17-25 64.
3-POINT GOALS — Wigglesworth, McCafferty; Clutter. REBOUNDS — REBOUNDS —Greybull 34 (Frazier, Goton 7) . STEALS — Greybull 9. ASSISTS — Greybull 17 (Sylvester 6). TURNOVERS — Greybull 19.