Buffs drop two at state, finish 7-15

By Nathan Oster

Greybull’s first appearance in the State 2A Basketball Championships since 2016 didn’t go as planned, as the Buffs were overwhelmed by 2A East champ Sundance 55-36 in Friday’s opening round and bounced from the tournament with a 47-40 loss to Big Horn on Saturday.

“We didn’t play our best basketball, that’s for sure,” said Coach Logan Burningham. “With an inexperienced team going to state for the first time, there was some state shock.  I think we experienced that a few times during the weekend.”

It was a disappointing end to an up and down season.  The Buffs struggled to win early, losing nine of their first 11. But that was followed by a stretch in which they won five of their next seven, with the last of those wins coming in quad play over Shoshoni to earn a berth in the state tournament.

Four straight losses followed — to Rocky Mountain in the quad final, Wind River at the regional, and then to Sundance and Big Horn at the state tournament — to leave the Buffs with a season-ending record of 7-15.

Of the two games played in Casper, Burningham said the Sundance game is the one where his team seemed “overwhelmed by the moment.” Granted, they were playing a one-loss team, a regular season beast whose every win came by double digits.

“They are eight players deep and all of eight of them contribute when they’re on the floor,” said Burningham. 

Just four points separated the teams at the first quarter break, with Sundance on top 17-13.  The second and third quarters weren’t kind to the Buffs, however.  The Bulldogs outscored the Buffs 26-6 during that span.   At one point, they led by as many as 31 (50-19) before the Buffs rallied late against the Sundance reserves.

Jesus Hernandez was the only Buff in double figures with 10.   Coby Henderson provided a late spark, scoring all nine of his points in the fourth quarter.

Greybull shot just 31 percent from the field, compared to 44 percent for Sundance.

On the boards, the Buffs were outrebounded 35-24.

The loss sent the Buffs into consolation play and a third matchup of the season with Big Horn. The two teams had split the first two — each winning on their home courts.  The Buffs looked like they were on their way to winning the rubber match.  They led by nine at the half, 25-16, thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Henderson, a freshman seeing his most extensive playing time of the season with the first unit.

“We were looking good, executing our offense, rebounding well and their big kid was in foul trouble,” said Burningham. “What we’d talked about doing, we were doing. But in the second half, they went on a run. Next thing you know, our attitudes start to change. A few bad calls and it was downhill from there.”

With top scorer Jesus Hernandez in foul trouble, the Buffs saw their lead slip away.

Big Horn made the big plays down the stretch, eventually winning by seven.

Hernandez again led in scoring with 15, followed by Carlos Rodriguez with nine points and a team-high eight boards.  Isaac Thueson added six points and seven boards.

The Buffs shot slightly better from the field than they did against Sundance — 34 percent — but were 6 of 16 from the line.  Big Horn outscored them from the stripe, connecting on 12 of 22.

The 3-point shooting prowess that fueled Greybull’s late-season surge was missing in Casper, as the Buffs connected on 6 of 30 attempts from deep.

The loss marked the end of the line for six Greybull seniors: Gaven McColloch, Isaac Thueson, Noah Zeller, Jesus Hernandez, Avery Swiftney and Camryn Chapman, all of whom will be missed, according to Burningham.

“After a loss like we experienced, it’s hard not to be frustrated,” said Burningham.  But from a big-picture standpoint, “We appreciate the seniors for helping us get to the state tournament.  That was our main goal all season and we accomplished it.

“They were the group I started with four years ago (upon arrival in Greybull).  The focus at the time was to get them ready for the varsity level, then it was continue to develop them through the varsity level.  It’ll be sad to see them move on.”

There are some building blocks for future success, however.  “The future looks bright,” said the coach. “We’ve got some good young kids coming up.”

With the worst of COVID-19 seemingly in the rear view, he’s hopeful to resume summer league games, schedule skill-development sessions and possibly attend a team camp in Montana.

“Those are going to be the key questions: What can we do and what can we get out of the kids this summer?  We’ve got to put in the work during the offseason.  We need to start weightlifting more, too. We’re a lot smaller than the teams we play.”

 

Greybull       13   4   2 17 — 36

Sundance      17 12 14 12 — 55

GREYBULL — Gaven McColloch 1-3 0-0 3, Brandt Miller 0-2 0-0 0, Isaac Thueson 1-6 0-0 2, Noah Zeller 1-3 0-0 3, Jesus Hernandez 4-11 2-2 10, Avery Swiftney 0-1 0-0 0, Camryn Chapman 1-3 0-0 3, Irving Castro 0-1 0-0 0, Cale Wright 0-4 0-0 0, Coby Henderson 3-3 2-3 9, Carlos Rodriguez 2-6 0-0 4, Aiden Reece 1-2 0-0 2.   Totals 14-45 4-5 36.

3-POINT GOALS — McColloch, Zeller, Chapman, Henderson.  REBOUNDS — Greybull 24 (Hernandez, Chapman 4); Sundance 35.  STEALS — Greybull 12 (McColloch 3); Sundance 14.  TURNOVERS — Greybull 22; Sundance 18.

 

Greybull       11 14   5 10 — 40

Big Horn      10   6 15 16 — 47

GREYBULL — McColloch 1-8 0-2 2, Thueson 3-9 0-1 6, Hernandez 5-14 5-8 15, Chapman 1-2 0-1 3.  Wright 0-5 0-0 0, Henderson 2-4 0-0 5, Rodriguez 4-5 1-4 9.  Totals 16-47 6-16 40.

3-POINT GOALS — Chapman, Henderson.  REBOUNDS — Greybull 32 (Rodriguez 8); Big Horn 28.  STEALS — Greybull 5 (Hernandez 2); Big Horn 6.  ASSISTS — Greybull 5 (Rodriguez 3); Big Horn 6.  TURNOVERS — Greybull 14; Big Horn 14.