Big Piney boys qualify for state basketball championships

Puncher girls eliminated at regional tournament with upset

The Big Piney basketball team punched its ticket to the state championships with a fourth-place finish at the 2A West Regional championships last weekend in Riverton. The Big Piney girls, however, went 0-2 at regionals to end their season.

The Puncher boys entered the tournament with the No. 3 seed out of the 2A Southwest and had to take on Lovell, the No. 2 seed from the 2A Northwest, in the first round

With only the top-four teams qualifying, the game was huge and Big Piney managed to get the win, 48-47.

“It was a huge win for us, and hard fought, against a very good Lovell team,” Big Piney Head Coach Nate Strong said. “The game was not a pretty one to watch on the offense end, but it shows when you are focused and do all the ‘little’ things well you can still win, even when you do not shoot the ball particularly great. Our defense was amazing and the offensive pace and shot selection was great. (The) kids played unselfish and with the passion it takes to win. (I) could not have asked for a better battle.”

In the semifinals, Big Piney took on the No. 1 ranked team in 2A, Wind River. With 40 seconds left in the game, Big Piney only trailed by one point. Wind River, however, was able to finish on top, 61-55.

“We continued to play the right way and although we came out on the wrong end of the score, I was extremely pleased with how we played!” Strong said. “We really feel like we are doing things the right way on both ends and could have very easily ended up winning that contest.”

In the third game, Big Piney squared off against Greybull. The winner would advance to state and end the other team’s season, and the Punchers prevailed, 58-45.

“We showed up with great focus and intensity and held a solid Greybull team to 11 first-half points,” Strong said.

In the third-place contest, Big Piney took on the 2A Northwest’s regular season champion, Rocky Mountain. The Punchers found themselves in a big hole, trailing by 18 in the fourth, but fought back to get within three points of the Grizzlies. Rocky Mountain, however, ended up winning, 83-77.

“Once again the boys showed the ‘never quit’ attitude we always preach in practice,” Strong said. “I think it shows a lot of our team’s character that we are never going to give in no matter what the odds!”

With the fourth-place finish, Big Piney advances to this week’s state championships in Casper. The Punchers will take on the East Region’s champion, Pine Bluffs, in the first round Thursday at Casper College, beginning at 9 p.m.

Wind River, who beat Wyoming Indian 66-64 in the west regional finals, will play Wright in the first round. Wyoming Indian will play Upton and Rocky Mountain will play Southeast.

“All of our boys played extremely well at the regional tournament and for the seniors it was very rewarding to be able to make it to state once again,” Strong said. “However, they also made it clear they are not ‘satisfied’ with just making another trip to Casper and the state tourney. We look forward to a great week of practice in preparation for our

ify for state, the Puncher girls came up short in Riverton.

The Puncher girls entered the regional tournament as the No. 2 seed from the 2A Southeast and took on Lovell, the No. 3 team from the 2A Northeast in the first round.

The Punchers, however, were limited to one field goal in the first quarter and three in the first half, going into halftime trailing 23-11. Big Piney won the next two quarters, but couldn’t close the gap entirely and ended up losing, 40-34.

Liberty Runyan led Big Piney with 11 points. Grace Tanner, the team’s leading scorer, was held to seven.

After the loss, Big Piney took on Kemmerer in the second round. Big Piney beat Kemmerer twice during the regular season, including a 58-26 win the week before, but the third time was the charm for the Lady Rangers. Kemmerer ended up winning the game, 48-42, to end Big Piney’s season.

The game was tied after one quarter and Big Piney only trailed by two at halftime, 15- 13. Kemmerer, however, won the next two quarters by two points apiece to finish on top. The Rangers also kept Tanner from making a single field goal in the game. All three of her points came from the free-throw line.

Rachel Howard picked up some slack, knocking down three 3-pointers to finish with 21 points. Anna Stoutenburg added seven, Haylee Hoffman scored five and Runyan also scored five. Kemmerer, however, went 26 for 39 from the free-throw line while Big Piney made 21 of 46 attempts.

Wyoming Indian won the region, beating Lovell 57-41 in the finals. Rocky Mountain beat Wind River, 51-19, to take third.

Big Piney ended its season with a 13-11 overall record.

Cody Olivas photo

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