Buffs go 1-2, ousted at regional

by nathan oster

“Win two before you lose two.”

That’s every team’s goal going into the Class 2A West Regional — but it’s one that only four achieve, and this year, the Greybull Buffs were on the outside looking in as teams jockeyed for seeding position Saturday afternoon in Riverton.

The No. 4 seed from the Northwest going in, the Buffs came up short in their opener Thursday against Wyoming Indian, losing 75-42. They staved off elimination Friday morning with a hard-earned 54-41 win over Kemmerer, but got sent home the following morning when they lost to Thermopolis, 63-44.

Greybull finished the season at 9-18.

“At times, we did (in Riverton) what we’d hoped we’d do,” said Coach Jim Prather. “But one of the things we talked about before we went down was that we needed to put two to three games together where we didn’t see a big spike in turnovers.”

Against Wyoming Indian, the Buffs had 32.

“That was just too many against a quality team,” Prather said.

Turnovers weren’t as much of a problem in the next two games, as the Buffs committed just 17 in the win over Kemmerer and 16 in the loss to Thermopolis.  “I was real happy with that,” Prather said.

The 32 turnovers were one reason the Buffs didn’t fare well against the Chiefs, a team they played to a single point, 49-48, earlier this month at Buff Gym.  But the big difference was in the Wyoming Indian team that they saw.

“The obvious one is, they made their shots (this time),” Prather said. “The first time, we caught them on a day they didn’t shoot particularly well.  It’s tough in that gym in Riverton.  It seems like once they hit one or two, everything they put up starts going in.

“When they are playing like that, and the shots are falling like that … well, their record speaks for itself.”

The Chiefs also had two players the Buffs didn’t see the first time in Joey Aragon and Shane Willow. While they didn’t score many points, Prather feels the duo impacted the game — Aragon defensively and Willow with some nice feeds to teammates for easy baskets.

Paul Stewart led the Buffs in scoring with nine while Quinton Haley chipped in five points and team-highs in rebounds with 12 and steals with three.

The highlight of the weekend for the Buffs was the Kemmerer game.  The Buffs led at every quarter stop, but played their best in the fourth quarter, when they outscored the Rangers 21-9 to pull out the 13-point win.

Held to just two points through the first three quarters, Payton Gonzalez exploded for 12 in the fourth, including 5 of 6 from the free-throw line.  In fact, the Buffs were 8 of 11 from the line in the final quarter.  Calder Forcella also came up big in the fourth, scoring five of his eight points.

Prather said the Buffs were confident going in, thanks to their win over the Rangers at the season-opening Big Horn Basin Shootout, and that the key this time was the team’s defensive effort on Kemmerer’s top player, 6-4 Tre Deeter.

Deeter finished with four points before fouling out early in the fourth quarter.

“That’s something we’ve done all season long,” Prather said. “If a team was built around one player, we always seemed to do a nice job taking that kid away.  Our kids did a great job finding him and limiting his touches.”

Prather also credited Forcella for “a heads up play” early in the fourth, when Deeter had just come off the bench with four fouls.  Forcella immediately drove to the lane, made Deeter guard him, and it resulted in a blocking foul.

“Overall, it was easily the best game we played in Riverton,” Prather said.

The Buffs had visions of the state tournament on their mind when they met Thermopolis Saturday morning.  A win and they’d have qualified, and while they battled their hearts out, it just wasn’t to be.

Thermopolis buried seven from behind the arc and led at every quarter stop: 20-14 after one, 32-22 at the half and 45-35 after three. The Buffs got no closer, as Thermop put the game on ice with a 9 of 11 effort from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter.

“The final score wasn’t indicative of how the game went,” Prather said. “We lost, and that’s what was important, in terms of our goal of continuing our season.  But we kept our turnovers down and because of that, we got up 61 shots.  But in the end, you can’t make 29 percent of them and outscore a team like Thermopolis that shoots so well.”

The win sent Thermopolis to the state tournament, where they will be joined later this week by regional champion Lovell, Wyoming Indian and Big Piney.

“I like that we put ourselves in a position to go to state,” Prather said. “That’s a worthy accomplishment because after such a sound thumping (by Wyoming Indian) it would have been easy to say, ‘Hey, we don’t have it in us.’  But we stuck with the mantra, ‘win two before you lose two,’ and the boys played well Friday and competed well against Thermopolis.”


Season review

At 9-18, it’ll go down as a losing season in the record books.  But Prather sees a lot of positives.

The Buffs lost all five starters from last year’s state tournament, and when the season began, Prather had only five players who had ever worn a varsity uniform.  By season’s end, 14 different kids had done so.

“It was a season of growth,” Prather said. “The kids learned the game and how to compete at the varsity level.  They made tremendous progress during the course of the season, doing things like taking care of the ball, improving our free throw shooting and being more efficient offensively.

“The one disappointment may be that we just never found that defensive identity that teams need to play in the state tournament.  We were pretty good taking away the opponent’s primary scorer, but when they had two or three good scorers, we struggled. We ran into one of those teams on Saturday.”


Greybull   6 11 13 12 — 42

Wyo. Indian 10 23 21 23 — 75

GREYBULL — Payton Gonzalez 1 0-0 2, Zack Zeller 1 0-2 2, Cody Strauch 1 1-2 3, Calder Forcella 2 0-1 4, Quinton Haley 2 1-5 5, Ryan Sylvester 2 0-0 6, Paul Stewart 3 3-5 9, Fabian Davila 3 0-0 6, Treston Tracy 2 0-2 4, Aidan Jenness 0 1-2 1.  Totals 17-49 6-19 42.

WYO INDIAN — Willow 1 2-2 4, Penatac 5 3-3 13, Mosqueda 0 1-2 1, Gardner 2 0-5 4, J. Aragon 3 0-1 7, Clifford 3 2-6 9, Howell 4 0-0 8, Spoonhunter 5 0-0 13, Williamson 6 2-3 14, R. Aragon 1 0-0 2.  Totals 30 10-22 75.

3-POINT GOALS — Sylvester 2; Spoonhunter 3, Clifford, J. Aragon.  REBOUNDS — Greybull 40 (Haley 12).   STEALS — Greybull 7 (Haley 3).  ASSISTS — Greybull 9 (Sylvester 3).  TURNOVERS — Greybull 32.


Greybull 13 8 12 21 — 54

Kemmerer 12 6 14   9 — 41

GREYBULL — Gonzalez 4 5-6 14, Forcella 2 3-5 8, Good 3 2-2 9, Sylvester 1 0-0 3, Stewart 7 0-0 14, Davila 2 0-0 4, Tracy 1 0-0 2.  Totals 20 10-13 54.

KEMMERER — Corbridge 3 0-0 7, Simpson 3 2-4 8, King 2 1-2 5, Kascoli 2 0-0 5, Deeter 2 0-0 4, B. Sumpsion 5 2-6 12.  Totals 17 5-12 41.

3-POINT GOALS — Gonzalez, Forcella, Good, Sylvester.  REBOUNDS — Greybull 31 (Stewart, Tracy 7).  STEALS — Greybull 10 (Stewart 4).  ASSISTS — Greybull 11 (Forcella 5).  TURNOVERS — Greybull 17.


Greybull 14   8 13   9 — 44

Thermop 20 12 13 18 — 63

GREYBULL — Gonzalez 3 2-2 9, Forcella 1 0-0 3, Good 3 0-0 7, Haley 3 2-2 8, Stewart 6 1-3 13, Davila 1 0-0 2, Tracy 1 0-0 2.  Totals 18 5-7 44.

THERMOPOLIS — Thomas 6 2-2 18, Roling 1 0-0 3, Abbott 6 4-7 16, Haun 1 0-0 2, Conner 5 2-3 12, Schmidt 2 0-0 5, Cornwell 2 2-2 7.  Totals 23 10-14 63.

3-POINT GOALS — Gonzalez, Forcella, Good; Thomas 4, Roling, Schmidt, Cornwell.  REBOUNDS — Greybull 39 (Haley 11).  STEALS — Greybull 6 (Haley 11).  ASSISTS — Greybull 9 (Forcella 3).  TURNOVERS — Greybull 16.