Lady Grizz conquer Lady Chiefs in road thriller after heartbreak at home

Ryan Fitzmaurice
After a difficult loss at home against the Tongue River Eagles, the Lady Grizz turned around and accomplished their greatest feat of the season, winning against the Lady Chiefs in Ethete. 

The weekend saw the Lady Grizz face off against the third-ranked 2A team in the state in Tongue River and then take on the top-ranked team in the State, Wyoming Indian. 

The Lady Grizz were in a tight battle in every second of both games, with the team unable to hold on in a 40-36 loss against Tongue River before flummoxing  Wyoming Indian in a 50-46 thriller. 

“The night before, we had such an intense, emotional game against Tongue River. They responded against Wyoming Indian. I was really happy with our whole team effort,” Coach Eric Honeyman said. “I didn’t know we’d respond after such a hard-fought game, now going into
one of the most intense gyms in Wyoming. We responded well.”

The 1-1  record for the week places the Lady Grizz at 11-6 for the year.

On Friday, the Lady Grizz’s contest against Tongue River took off in a dead heat, with both teams entering the second quarter tied at 9 and two minutes later tied at 11. 

With just under five minutes left in the first half, the Lady Griz began to pull away, beginning with a long two-point jump shot by Shelby Wambeke. Two possessions later
Victoria Arnold drove into the key for a bank shot. The Grizz had carved a four-point lead. 

With Rocky maintaining a two-point lead, 19-17, in the final minute of the first half, MacKelle Moss found an open look beyond the arc to splash in a three-point shot. Now up by five, Victoria Arnold stole a pass at mid-court and found herself face-to-face with the basket for a buzzer-beating layup.

The layup didn’t go in, though, depriving the Grizz of a seven-point lead going into half.

The Lady Grizz were in need of every one of the points, because the Tongue River Eagles would heavily increase their defensive intensity in the second half, allowing them to slowly chip into the Lady Grizz lead.

At the end of an 11-6 third quarter, the score was tied at 28. 

“They took every paint touch away from us,” Honeyman said. “I give Tongue River a lot of credit. They are very athletic. They covered all the holes in their zone defense and overall played one of their best games of the season against us. Tongue River made us have to beat them from the perimeter. We need to open that up by taking good shots outside.”

Moss  hit a second three-pointer from the wing to give the Grizz an early three-point lead early in the fourth, but Rocky would only find a couple of free throws in the ensuing minutes, falling behind 37-32 with three minutes left in the game.

Victoria Arnold grabbed an offensive rebound and put the ball in the basket on a shot in the paint to create a single-possession game, but the Grizz were never able to retake the lead. An Erminia Garcia jump shot would reduce the score to one with under a minute to go, but Tongue River was able to keep the Grizz scoreless for the rest of the match while hitting just enough free throws to clinch the victory. 

“I told the girls that I failed them,” Honeyman said. “I didn’t follow my script. I wanted to do more press and zone, but I didn’t stick to them, and that disrupted our flow. I just overall did not make really good decisions. I didn’t follow the game plan.” 

Moss and Arnold were the only two significant scorers for the Lady Grizz. Moss had 14 points to go with three rebounds and three steals. Arnold had 12 points, with eight rebounds, two assists and four steals. 

Wambeke and Kennedi Minchow both had 2 points and five rebounds.
Garcia recorded 4 points and two assists. 

There was very little time for the team to lick their wounds. Soon after, they were on the bus to Ethete. 

The game was just as fierce, but this time the Lady Grizz would come out on top.

The Wyoming Indian Lady Chiefs have a deceptively simple but brutally effective game plan. Their strength is their press, and with it, they hope to speed their opponents up and force them to make a bad decision.

But, the Lady Grizz have been a compelling matchup with the Chiefs, because, in the last few years, that approach has also been their bread and butter 

“They are notorious for their pressing,” Honeyman said. “We are, too.”

Right away, the Lady Grizz met Wyoming Indian’s intensity straight on and played a dominant first quarter, securing an early 11-5 lead.

“Our offense was way better (than against Tongue River),” Honeyman said. “We had better ball movement. We were able to get paint touches often against their defense which lead to a higher percentage of shots for our girls.”

But Wyoming Indian burst into life in the second quarter. The Lady Grizz still netted nine points, but it was not enough to withstand a 17-point quarter for the Lady Chiefs. 

Despite the fast start, Rocky found themselves down 2, 22-20, at halftime. 

Quarter three was a standstill, with the Lady Grizz winning the quarter 15-12 to secure a fragile one-point lead going into the fourth quarter.

Thirty seconds into the fourth, the Lady Chiefs hit a three-pointer, making the Lady Grizz’s lead short-lived. Another three-pointer with just over six minutes to go gave Wyoming Indian a lightning-quick five-point lead, 40-35.

A series of free throws narrowed the lead to 42-38, and then the Lady Grizz quickly made up
the difference.  

Victoria Arnold stole an errant pass from the Lady Chiefs and took it for a full-court layup to reduce the Lady Chief’s lead to two. Wyoming Indian wouldn’t make it past half-court on their next possession, a pass once again finding the hands of Arnold. Victoria Arnold found her sister Anna wide open on the other end of the court.
The easy layup tied the game at 42. 

The Lady Grizz would soon widen that lead to 45-43 with three minutes remaining, the lead gained by a close-range bank shot by Moss. The two teams would battle themselves to a standstill for the next two minutes until Moss found herself wide open in the corner for a critical three-point shot. 

With under a minute remaining, the Grizz had a five-point lead. They closed the game out, earning a 50-46 victory. 

It was Wyoming Indian’s first 2A loss of
the season. 

“A lot of girls stepped up and played it really cool. MacKelle hit a huge three-pointer toward the end,” Honeyman said. “Overall, it was about our defensive effort. We picked them up full court, and we just wore them out. I give credit to our girls.”

Victoria Arnold had her most complete game in a season full of complete games, scoring 20 points and recording eight rebounds, eight steals and two assists. Moss also continues to show herself as a versatile offensive weapon, scoring 10 points, but she had her best game of the season on the boards, as well, securing
11 rebounds. 

Lauren Bassett had 6 points. Wambeke had 4 points, three rebounds and three assists. Anna Arnold had 4 points, two rebounds and two assists. 

“Now I think we are feeling pretty good,” Honeyman said. “We have momentum.”

The momentum will carry the Lady Grizz straight into more conference play this week. 

The Grizz will travel to 3-13 Greybull Friday for a 5:30 p.m. matchup and then will return home on Saturday to face off against the 9-9 Shoshoni Wranglers at 2:30 p.m. 

The Lady Grizz have defeated each team once before in the season.

“Greybull is a rival to us. It’s another step for us to keep striving toward our goal of taking the conference,” Honeyman said. “Greybull is always a crazy environment. It will be a packed house. We
want to play good fundamental basketball.

“Our key for both these teams is that we have to speed them up. We have to get those teams sped up to our pace of play. If we can do that, I see good things happening.”

Saturday will serve as “senior night” for the Lady Grizz. It will also feature the unveiling of Rocky’s state championship banner, celebrating the program’s championship last year.