Bulldogs pull off road sweep against Southwest 3A foes

David Peck

The Lovell Bulldogs showed they’re a force to be reckoned with in the 3A West as they took to the road last week and beat both Pinedale and Lander.
Fourth-ranked Pinedale came into Friday’s game 8-4 overall, 3-0 in the 3A Southwest, and the Wranglers were loaded for bear to beat the Bulldogs, who knocked them out of the playoffs at the regional tournament last season, even sporting “Revenge Tour” warmup T-shirts before the game. But playing their best basketball of the season, the Bulldogs stopped the home team 62-53.
“That’s the best we’ve played all year, the best four quarters we’ve played,” head coach Shane Durtsche said. “And I can tell you, Pinedale is a good team. They came out hot, and we weathered the storm.
“There was a lot of energy in the building. It was a packed house, a great environment for a high school basketball game. They have eight seniors. This is the year they’ve been looking for.”
Pinedale built an eight-point lead in the first quarter, Durtsche said, but the Bulldogs trimmed the deficit to four at the quarter break, 13-9. And then the deadly Parker and Owen Show took center court.
Senior Parker Anderson exploded for 13 points in the second quarter, including a trio of three-pointers, and sophomore Owen Walker added 6 points of his own as the Bulldogs outscored Pinedale 22-15 to lead 31-28 at halftime.
“Parker hit some big shots,” Durtsche said. “The way they came out, if Parker hadn’t hit those, it could have gone the other way. Two of them were deep, probably 22- to 24-footers, and one was pretty contested.
“Owen was a monster for us in this game.”
The two teams traded baskets in the third quarter, and the Bulldogs found themselves down by one point in the final seconds. After a Pinedale miss with about nine seconds to go, the Bulldogs rushed the other way and set up a long three-pointer for Walker, who drilled the shot to put Lovell up by two at the quarter break, 43-41.
“Owen hit it from about 30 feet,” Durtsche said. “He head-faked, and a guy sailed by. It was pretty. He drilled it. It was a momentum changer.”
Lovell built an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Pinedale was hanging back on defense, Durtsche said, so though not really planning to do so, the Bulldogs went into a three-man weave to take time off the clock.
“We ran about 1:45 off the clock before they started fouling,” he said. “The kids really did a nice job closing out the game. We hit our free throws down the stretch.”
Lovell outscored Pinedale 19-12 in the fourth quarter to win by nine, 62-53.
Durtsche was pleased.
“When you look at the energy, the quality of Pinedale’s team and being on the road in a hostile environment, that was our best four quarters of basketball,” he summed up.
The Bulldogs shot a crisp 48 percent from the field, hit nine of 13 free throws and out-rebounded Pinedale 35-22 in the game.
Anderson finished with 24 points, Walker 18. Matthew Newman added 10 points, Davin Crosby 6, Blake Wilson 3 and Kaeson Anderson 1. Walker finished with 13 rebounds and three blocked shots, Newman eight assists and five rebounds. Wilson also grabbed five boards.
Win at Lander
The Bulldogs made the long drive over South Pass to Lander after the game Friday, and it was a good thing they did, because Powell cancelled a game at Pinedale the next day due to the road conditions. The Lovell bus arrived late, around midnight, but safe.
A somewhat weary Lovell team had a battle on their hands against a Lander squad that has been coming on and is well-coached, Durtsche said, but prevailed in the end, 52-51.
“Stu (Mullins, head coach) does a great job, and Terry Hopkin (former Riverside and Burlington coach) is a volunteer coach,” Durtsche said. “Their kids play hard, and they played well. I was told after the game that this was the best game they’ve played all year. They’re getting better, and they shot really well.
“But to go get two road wins against two of the better teams (in 3A), we’ll take it. Lander is going to be scary come Regionals.”
Lovell and Lander were tied after the first quarter, 12-12, as Parker Anderson continued his hot shooting with a pair of treys. Walker scored 7 in the second quarter, Anderson 4 and Robert Romero 3 on a trey as Lovell outscored the home team 14-9 to lead 26-21 at intermission.
Lander got hot in the third quarter and outscored Lovell 20-12 to lead 41-38 with one quarter to play, and the Tigers led by six in the final four minutes before the Bulldogs pulled out the win by one point.
Down 45-39, two free throws by Anderson and a clutch trey by Newman gut the lead to one point, 45-44, with 1:46 to play. The Bulldogs took the lead when Walker followed his own miss for a put-back, was fouled, and converted the old-fashioned three-point play for a 47-45 Lovell lead with 1:10 left.
Two free throws by Anderson with :32 on the clock boosted the Bulldog lead to four, and Anderson executed a steal and score with 19 seconds left to put Lovell up 51-45. After a Lander trey, Anderson hit one of two at the line to keep Lovell up by four, 52-48, which was critical because the Tigers drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to make the final score 52-51.
“Our energy level wasn’t like the night before, which was to be expected,” Durtche said. “Our kids did just enough. When we were down six with just over four minutes left, we went into a 1-2-1-1 zone press, then would fall back into a man, and with three minutes left, once they broke the press, we would do a run-and-jump trapping man, which was even more aggressive.
“Our kids stepped up and made enough plays to pull it out.”
Parker Anderson led the team with 23 points, and Walker scored 19. Newman and Romero scored 3 each, Kaeson Anderson and Wilson 2 apiece. Walker grabbed a team high 11 rebounds, Crosby five, and Walker led with four assists, Parker Anderson three steals.
Big weekend
Now 14-4, the Bulldogs can clinch at least second place in the 3A Northwest if they can sweep Thermopolis and Worland this weekend, which will be no easy task. The Bulldogs edged Thermopolis 44-41 January 26 in Thermop and beat Worland 52-46 at home on January 19.
“This is our biggest weekend. We control our own destiny,” Durtsche said. “Thermopolis is long, talented and athletic. They’re capable of beating just about anyone. Worland is Worland. They’re going to play tough. They’re a prideful program. You’d better pack a lunch when you play Worland.”
Both Thermopolis and Worland beat Lyman and lost to Mountain View over the weekend.
Tip-off times are 7 p.m. both at Winterholler Gym Friday (JVs at 4 p.m.) and in Worland Saturday.
Junior varsity
The Lovell JVs had a successful weekend, as well, winning a pair of close games.
The Bulldogs topped Pinedale Friday, 48-42, leading 40-24 after three quarters and holding the home team off in the fourth. Kyle Wilson scored 12 points for the Bulldogs, Parker Steenbakkers 11, Owen Edwards and Kaeson Anderson 8 apiece, James Blau 7 and Brody Muller 2.
Lovell edged Lander 41-38 in overtime Saturday. Lander trailed the Bulldogs 34-28 after three quarters, then forced overtime by winning the fourth 10-4. Lovell blanked Lander 3-0 in overtime.
Edwards and Wilson scored 9 points each, Braxton Felkins 6, Robert Romero 5, Steenbakkers and Anderson 4 each, Blau and Muller 2 apiece.