Grizz wallop Wind River to close regular season

David Peck

It was a fun and inspiring finish to the 2023-24 regular season for the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies Friday as they honored seniors on Senior Night by crushing the Wind River Cougars 42-27 in Cowley.

“We were tired of moral victories,” head coach Pat Winland said. “The kids really needed this win to prove to themselves they could do it. We’ve played well enough to win lately, and we finally got one. It was a good one for our seniors to go out with.”

Winland noted that the Grizzlies held Wind River to single digits in all four quarters, adding that hitting shots at the other end of the court paved the way.

“Our offense helped our defense in this game, especially in the second and third quarters,” he said. “We were able to get back on defense by hitting shots and were able to apply more pressure on them full court. These kids want to press, but I tell them we need to score in order to press.”

Winland noted that the Grizzlies hit 15 of 28 shot attempts close to the basket but struggled from both the three-point line (2-12) and the free throw line (2-11), which he said is concerning heading into the regional tournament this week.

“We also had more turnovers (22) than I would have liked,” he added.

On the other hand, the Grizz forced 26 turnovers of their own and held the Cougars to single digit quarters, as he noted earlier.

“We used man-to-man pressure, and we’ve always prided ourselves on our gap help and weak side defense,” Winland said.

The Grizz led Wind River 9-7 after the first quarter, and after a 9-9 tie early in the second, the Grizzlies went on an 11-0 tear as Cole Minchow scored on a baseline drive, Tucker Jackson scored on an in-bound play from Jacob Bischoff, Bryce Haslem found Lafe Files for a three-pointer, Files found Jackson on the fast break for two and Files executed a move and jumper. Rocky led 20-9 and went on to lead at halftime, 24-15.

Rocky Mountain continued to pull away in the third quarter, outscoring the visitors 14-7 including a seven-point run to finish the period on a move and jumper by Max Cooley, a steal conversion by Hudson May and an old-fashioned three-point play by Files. Rocky led 38-22 after three.

Wind River edged Rocky 5-4 in the fourth quarter, and Winland had the team work the clock over the final three minutes, just for the practice, he said. 

Files finished with 12 points, Jackson 10, Bischoff 6, Minchow and Cooley 4 each, Haslem, May and Noah Johnson 2 apiece. Jackson yanked down 13 rebounds, Bischoff five, and Bischoff led the team with six assists.

Junior varsity

The Rocky Mountain junior varsity team made it a sweep Friday with a 41-33 win over Wind River. The Grizz outscored the Cougars 21-14 in the first half as Joaquin Scheeler dropped in 18 points, then traded baskets with the visitors in the second half.

Scheeler finished with 28 points, Rylan Stebner 5, Kellan Jackson 3, Travis Crosby and Juan Rodriguez 2 each, Jacob Melton 1.

“Solid win to finish the season for this crew,” coach Jeff Samson said. “This was a young team this year, but they were coachable, and I enjoyed working with them. I saw a lot of improvement. I’ll have most of them back on JV next year, and I’m excited to see what we can do.

“To take the next step they need to put in work in the offseason. That’s where kids/teams can really separate themselves from the competition.”

Regional tournament

The Grizz are off to Riverton this week for the 2A West Regional Tournament. The Grizz might have been seeded third except that Shoshoni had to forfeit a game to Wind River for using a player in too many quarters, JV and varsity, so the extra win placed the Cougars third, Rocky fourth.

Thus, the Grizz must open with the top seed from the Southwest, 18-6 Wyoming Indian, today (Thursday) at 1:30 p.m. at Riverton High School. If the Grizz upset the Chiefs, they will play at 7:30 p.m. Friday at RHS against the winner of the Shoshoni-St. Stephens game. If they fall to the Chiefs, they will play the Shoshoni-St. Stephens loser Friday at 1 p.m. at RHS.

“It’s a new season, obviously, for everyone,” Winland said. “Give Wyoming Indian their due. They beat everyone down there (playing at Regionals). After that, teams two through eight have played very competitive games with each other. Any of them could be headed to the state tournament.

“We’ll prepare for Wyoming Indian, which in turn will help us prepare for St. Stephens if that possibility arises. We’ve played Shoshoni tough two times.”