Lady Grizz hang tough with top-ranked 2A foes

David Peck

The results in the win/loss column may not have shown it, but the Rocky Mountain Lady Grizzlies played some very good basketball last week, even with losses at Tongue River and at home against Wyoming Indian.
The top-ranked Lady Eagles came into Friday’s game in Dayton with a 14-2 record, having dispatched Big Horn 57-37 on Thursday night. Tongue River prevailed over the Lady Grizz 46-37, then won at number three Sundance 48-27. Thus, the Lady Grizz gave TR by far their toughest test of the week.
Similarly, second-ranked Wyoming Indian had demolished Shoshoni 65-12 Thursday but found themselves in a battle against the Lady Grizz Saturday afternoon before topping the Grizz 55-42.
Tongue River
Rocky coach Justin Moss said his team played well in Dayton Friday, starting strong as senior MacKelle Moss hit three of her first four shots from the field and freshman Kaysie Cooley knocked down a pair of three-pointers off the bench. Rocky led 19-18 at halftime.
The Lady Grizz went cold in the third quarter as the home team won the quarter 14-6 to lead 32-25 after three.
“During our stretches when we struggled scoring, we stopped getting the ball inside and working through our posts,” Moss said. “We need to sense those moments and make more of a concerted effort getting paint touches instead of settling for outside jump shots.
“We had a couple of stretches where we had some unforced turnovers in the middle of the second quarter and the middle of the third quarter that swung the momentum in the game.”
The Lady Grizz rallied in the fourth to pull close before TR edged back to double digits to win 46-37.
“We were down 32-30 with six minutes left but went cold, and TR went on an 8-0 run in the next four minutes,” Moss said. “With two minutes left Brittly Boettcher hit a three and Lauren Bassett made consecutive layups, which put us within five with 45 seconds left.
“We shot almost the same field goal percentage and matched them with defensive rebounds. However, we had 26 turnovers and gave up 14 second chance points. TR also went to the free throw line 10 more times.”
Moss was pleased overall with his team’s performance.
“Tongue River is a good team. There’s a reason they have won 15 consecutive games and are ranked number one in the state,” he said. “I loved our effort. We came out of the game feeling like we could hang with a really good team.
“We are playing with lots of effort and having longer stretches of good basketball.”
Bassett finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, Boettcher 9 points and six boards, Moss 6 points and three blocked shots. Cooley added 6 points, Shelby Wambeke 4 and Rylee Winland 2. Tarynn Schoening had four steals in the game.
Lady Chiefs
The Lady Grizzlies matched Wyoming Indian early on Saturday, with the two rivals knotted 5-5 in the opening two minutes. The Grizz went cold after that, and Wyoming Indian gradually built a 10-5 lead by the quarter break.
Down 16-9 early in the second quarter, the Lady Grizzlies rallied to pull within two at 16-14 thanks to a 5-0 mini-run as Bassett scored on an assist from Schoening, Wambeke drove for two points and Schoening hit one of two at the foul line.
Wyoming Indian pulled back out to a nine-point lead, 24-15, but a late power basket by Brittly Boettcher and a free throw by Keylee Christiansen kept the home team in the hunt at halftime, trailing 24-18.
After Wyoming Indian took a 33-20 lead midway through the third, Bassett went the distance for two and later hit one of two at the line, followed by a three-pointer from senior Moss that cut the margin to seven, 33-26.
Meanwhile, the Grizz stepped it up on defense and held Wyoming Indian scoreless for some three minutes, but a pair of treys and a put-back boosted the Lady Chief to 15, 41-26, and WIHS went on to lead after three, 43-29.
It was an uphill battle from then on for the Lady Grizz, though they did cut the lead to 10 at 49-39 with under two minutes left in the game. Wyoming Indian closed out the game for a 55-42 win.
“We played a pretty good first half, especially in the second quarter where we did a better job of attacking and went to the free throw line 10 times,” Moss said. “We again had some hiccups in the third quarter with some missed defensive assignments and unforced turnovers.
“We didn’t quite have that pop defensively that we had in Tongue River the night before. Long bus rides and an early game tend to do that at times.”
Bassett finished with 14 points, Wambeke 9, Boettcher 8, Moss 5, Schoening 4 and Christiansen and Elliahna Scheeler 1 apiece. Boettcher and Bassett grabbed seven rebounds each, Moss and Wambeke five apiece. Wambeke added three steals, Moss two blocked shots.
“We lowered our turnovers to 18 versus the Lady Chiefs, however Wyoming Indian had 19 points off of those turnovers,” Moss noted. “We have made some good progress over the last two weeks, and we are moving in the right direction as a team.”
Conference games
Now 11-8, the Lady Grizz will play a pair of key conference games this weekend as they host Greybull Friday for a 5:30 p.m. tip-off (JVs at 4 p.m.) and travel to Shoshoni Saturday for a 3 p.m. tap (JVs at 1:30). Rocky beat Greybull on the road 47-28 on January 19 and stopped Shoshoni 40-14 the following afternoon at home.
With a pair of wins, the Lady Grizz can clinch finishing no lower than second place and stay in the hunt for the conference crown.
“We need to take care of the ball, control the paint both offensively and defensively and rebound the basketball,” Moss said.
Junior varsity
The Lady Grizzly junior varsity squad fell to Wyoming Indian Saturday afternoon, 60-37. Wyoming Indian outscored Rocky 30-18 in the first half and 30-19 in the second. Freshman Halle Grandalen led the Lady Grizz with 9 points, and Sharlotte Hanusa added 7 points, Cooley and Scheeler 6 each, Christiansen 5 and Layla Gardner 4.
“The JV girls played hard in this one. We got contributions from a lot of girls,” coach Ryan Boettcher said. “The Lady Chiefs have a real experienced crew and size to match, and it was tough to overcome. For the most part, we handled their pressure but could keep pace with them on scoring. Most teams don’t hit six threes in a JV game.”