Lady Grizz rally to knock off Wind River

David Peck

The Rocky Mountain Lady Grizzlies ended the regular season with a bang Friday night in Cowley, celebrating Senior Night with a thrilling come-from-behind win over the Wind River Cougars, 50-46, avenging an earlier loss to the conference foe.

For about 29 minutes Friday, it looked like the Lady Grizz would fall again to the 2A Northwest Conference leading Lady Cougars (5-0) after suffering a 54-44 loss. Wind River took a 14-12 lead after the first quarter and maintained the two-point lead at halftime, 24-22, then outscored Rocky in the third to lead 35-29 heading into the fourth.

“We struggled in the first half with 18 turnovers but limited it to nine after the half,” head coach Justin Moss said. “Wind River thrives in the open court and really tries to pressure, so limiting our turnovers was something that we worked on all week.”

The Lady Grizzlies clamped down on defense in the fourth and mounted a comeback, holding Wind River to just four free throws over the first five minutes of the final quarter while scoring 8 points on a fast-break basket by Lauren Bassett on an assist by Brittly Boettcher, two free throws by Boettcher, a coast-to-coast drive by Boettcher following a turnover and an inside bank shot by MacKelle Moss on a pass from Tarynn Schoening.

The Wind River lead was cut to one, 38-37. Wind River hit a free throw to lead 39-37, then gained a five-point lead on the first basket of the quarter, a three-pointer by Natalie Walker. A jumper by Madisyn Areneach following a Rocky turnover put Wind River up 44-37 with three minutes to play, but two free throws by Bassett after an offensive rebound and one of two at the line by Boettcher made it 44-40 with 1:48 to play.

And then it was Tarynn time.

Schoening, a junior, put the team on her shoulders, with a little help from her friends.

First, Schoening knocked down a trey with 1:10 left, cutting the Wind River lead to one point, 44-43. Then Bassett stole a lob pass, raced down the court and fed Moss on the break, who was fouled. The senior calmly hit both free throws with 47 ticks left on the clock, giving the Lady Grizz a 45-44 lead.

Wind River missed at the other end but stole the ball after a Rocky rebound. The Lady Cougars missed again but Walker snared an offensive rebound and was fouled, Rocky point guard Shelby Wambeke fouling out on the play. Walker hit both free throws for Wind River, giving the visitors a 46-45 lead with 23 seconds left.

Keylee Christiansen took the point for the Lady Grizz and brought the ball downcourt, then handed off to Schoening, who curled around to the top of the key, took one step inside the three-point line and buried a long bank shot while being fouled on the play. The junior was swarmed by her teammates.

Schoening hit the foul shot for a three-point play to put Rocky up 48-46 with 14 seconds left, and after a Wind River miss at the other end, Schoening sealed the win with two more at the charity stripe with three seconds left, giving Rocky Mountain a 50-46 win.

Rocky outscored Wind River 21-11 in the fourth quarter and 13-2 over the final three minutes.

“It was a fast paced, back-and-forth game that was fun to be a part of,” Moss said. “We were down but not out. We have a lot of gritty girls on our team that don’t quit. Being in that style of game and being able to finish it are things that can’t be taught in practice. I knew that we had tough girls that were up for the challenge.

“I’m proud of the fight in our girls. Tarynn hit some big shots down the stretch and hit clutch free throws, scoring 13 points and getting six steals. Tarynn is someone that you can always depend on to bring the juice defensively. It was nice to see her be able to get going offensively, as well.”

Bassett matched Schoening with 13 points and led the team with 10 rebounds for a double-double. Moss added 10 points and seven steals, Boettcher 8 points, Wambeke 4 and Christiansen 2. Rocky went 20-26 from the free throw line.

“We have been playing better stretches of basketball the last few weeks,” Moss said. “I’m looking forward to continuing that upward trend as we head into the regional tournament.”

Regional tourney

Now 14-8, 5-1 in the 2A Northwest, the Lady Grizz will enter the 2A West Regional Tournament in Riverton behind Wind River as the second seed based on point differential, having lost to the Cougars 10, then winning Friday by four.

Rocky will open play at 3:30 p.m. today (Thursday) at Riverton Middle School, facing the third seed from the Southwest, Big Piney (8-13).

“Big Piney is an athletic team that is always looking for run-outs,” Moss said. “They have three girls that score at least 8 points per game, but they are led by Micah Strong, who is very fast. She won multiple events in track last year.

“We will need to contain her and stay in front of their girls as they are best when they are driving to the basket. They’ve had an up-and-down season, but they have had tight games with Kemmerer and the Chiefs lately. We are looking forward to continuing our climb. I feel like the best is yet to come for the Lady Grizz.”

If the Lady Grizzlies win, they will play the winner of the Wyoming Indian-Shoshoni game Friday at 6 p.m. at Riverton High School. A loss to Big Piney would drop the Lady Grizz to a loser-out game against the WIHS-Shoshoni loser Friday at 11:30 a.m. at RHS.

Two wins would place the Lady Grizz in the championship game at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, whereas a win and a loss or a loss and a win would place Rocky in a state qualifying game Saturday at 8 a.m.