Grizz fall to ranked foes but battle Chiefs to the wire

David Peck

It was an old-fashioned battle between the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies and the rival Wyoming Indian Chiefs Saturday afternoon in Cowley, and although the Chiefs ended up winning the game, 60-45, the Grizz twice cut the margin to six points in the fourth quarter with a mighty effort.
The Grizz-Chiefs game followed a 52-34 Rocky loss to second-ranked Tongue River Friday night in Dayton.
“This was our third tough game in a row (after Big Horn and Tongue River) with top teams in 2A,” head coach Pat Winland said of the Chiefs game. “I stressed to the kids: What an opportunity we have to play teams that are ranked. In the last two games we’ve made teams earn their wins.
“This week we hope to capture that momentum we have in the third and fourth quarters and go from there.”
The Grizzlies came out strong Saturday afternoon against fourth-ranked Wyoming Indian, building an early 6-2 lead on a bank shot by Lafe Files, two free throws by Jacob Bischoff and a bucket by Tucker Jackson on an in-bounds play. Wyoming Indian came back to lead 8-6, but a bucket inside by Files knotted the score 8-8.
Wyoming Indian outscored Rocky 11-6 the rest of the quarter to lead after one, 19-14.
An aggressive trapping defense by the Chiefs forced the Grizz into 10 second-quarter turnovers, and the visitors won the quarter 15-5 to lead 34-19 at halftime.
“We had some really careless turnovers and took some quick shots, then let them leak out for some layups,” Winland said.
The two teams matched baskets in the third quarter. An early three-pointer by Bryce Haslem and a baseline jumper by Files were matched by the Chiefs, and defense ruled the rest of the quarter as Wyoming Indian took a 45-29 lead into the fourth quarter.
Wyoming Indian took a 47-29 lead early in the fourth, but Winland slapped on a full-court man-to-man press that forced the Chiefs into turnovers and sparked a 12-0 run that chopped the margin to six points, 47-41.
“We applied a lot more pressure to them, which created some opportunities for us and got us going up and down the court for some easy looks,” Winland said. “We played a lot looser. Against their trap our post guys started coming up to help more, and we avoided the corners.
“The kids bought into (the press) and really got after it.”
A Cole Minchow drive for two and two free throws by Minchow twice kept the margin at six, 49-43 and 51-45 after Wyoming Indian free throws, but the Chiefs pulled away down the stretch with a 9-0 run to win by 15, 60-45.
Minchow and Files finished with 13 points each for the Grizz, and Haslem and Jackson scored 5 points each, Bischoff 4, Max Cooley 3 and Alex Hedges 2. Jackson added 12 rebounds and five steals, Bischoff five assists, four rebounds and three steals, Haslem five steals, Hedges four rebounds and Files two blocked shots.
Loss in Dayton
The Grizzlies struggled to score against the tall and talented Tongue River Eagles Friday night in Dayton, although they got some good looks, Winland said. Early ice-cold shooting left the Grizz down 16-3 after the first quarter, and a 17-8 second-quarter advantage gave the home team a 22-point cushion at halftime, 33-11.
“We got down early and had another half of single-digit quarters. Our shooting woes continued,” Winland said. “The looks were there again. We were just unable to finish.”
The Grizz played a better second half, edging the Eagles 23-19 over the final two quarters to cut the final margin to 18, 52-34. Haslem drained a pair of three-pointers to help the Rocky cause, and Bischoff scored three baskets in the half, Alex Hedges and Jackson two each.
“We came out and played better in the second half, defensively, for sure,” Winland said. “They called off the dogs with about two or three minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
“Caleb Kilbride is an all-state player, and he played very well against us (17 points). He can put it on the floor and shoot it. Kole (Spotted) is a big kid, about 6-7 (scoring 10 in the second quarter). They were tough to stop. We were outmatched for size from one to five.”
Haslem led Rocky with 8 points, and Jackson added 7, Hudson May and Bischoff 6 apiece, Hedges 4, Files 2 and Minchow 1. Jackson led the team with six steals, and Cooley and Bischoff grabbed four caroms each. Haslem had three steals.
Conference games
The Grizzlies have a pair of critical 2A Northwest Conference games this weekend as they fight to dig out of the cellar. The Grizz host conference Greybull Friday at 7 p.m. (JVs at 4), then travel to second-place Shoshoni Saturday for a 4:30 p.m. tip-off (JVs at 1:30).
In back-to-back losses to Greybull and Shoshoni January 19-20, the scoring margin was one point after three quarters before the opponents pulled away in the fourth, Winland noted.
“We’ve got to handle Greybull’s 1-2-2 press and keep Carlos (Rodriguez) and Coby (Henderson) in check,” Winland said of the Buffs. “For Shoshoni, having a full squad will help. I hope Lafe and Alex rebounding and scoring will be a big factor for us – and keeping them (the Wranglers) out of the paint.”
Junior varsity
The Rocky Mountain JVs swept Tongue River and Wyoming Indian Friday and Saturday.
The Grizz topped Tongue River in Dayton Friday 55-40 behind 19 points from the hot hand of Joaquin Scheeler and 16 from Rylan Stebner. The Grizz built a 30-17 halftime lead and cruised from there.
May added 8 points, Hedges 6 and Kellan Jackson, Travis Crosby and Hayden Wambeke 2 apiece.
Saturday at home, the Grizzlies beat the Wyoming Indian Chiefs in overtime, 49-46. Rocky led 23-20 at halftime, but the Chiefs carried the second half by the same score, 23-20, to force overtime. Lovell outscored WIHS 6-3 in overtime.
Scheeler led the Grizz with 19 points, and Stebner added 18, Jackson 7, Hedges 3 and May 2.