PINEDALE – Following a rough start to 2021, the Wranglers demonstrated significant improvement in matchups against Big Piney and Jackson on Jan. 14 and 15. Improvement might be an understatement. The team recovered from a devastating Jan. 9 loss to Big Piney, the top-ranked 2A school in the Southwest Quadrant, to come within nine points of upsetting its rival on Jan. 14.
During a tightly fought, physical match before the home crowd, the Wranglers gave the Punchers a run for their money. Pinedale ultimately lost, 67-58, yet the young team meshed well and stepped up its intensity.
“The coaches were extremely proud of everyone after Friday night against Big Piney,” said head coach Marcus Helland. “To go from a 47-point deficit to nine in just a week showed us that our players are learning, competing and giving great effort.”
On Friday, the Wranglers challenged 4A opponent Jackson on the court. Jackson scored the win, 76-60, but Pinedale again put up a fight, significantly outscoring the Broncs in the final quarter.
“We came out pretty flat and timid, giving Jackson 30-plus points on turnovers, which makes it hard to compete against any team,” said Helland. “We still have to improve at all aspects of the game, especially taking care of the ball. We look forward to working on that this week as we continue to grow and prepare for Mountain View and Lyman this weekend.”
The Punchers dominated the first quarter, outscoring the Wranglers 18-10. Freshmen Owen McMillen and Josh Gosar kept Pinedale on the scoreboard with 3-pointers and sophomore Colby Bailey and freshman Bridger Kaiser each dropped in a 2-pointer.
Pinedale battled back in the second quarter, scoring 17 points to 19 from Big Piney. Junior Jackson Harber shot in a pair of 2-pointers while Gosar and McMillen both contributed a 3-pointer.
Big Piney hit the court reenergized after halftime, tossing in 20 points and holding Pinedale to eight.
In the final quarter, the Wranglers turned the tables and unleashed a 23-point scoring clip, leaving Big Piney in the dust at 10 points. McMillen shot in four baskets with deadeye accuracy from outside the perimeter. Freshman Jayce Ramage excelled inside the perimeter with a run of four 2-pointers.
McMillen finished the match with 21 points under his belt. Ramage scored 13 points, Gosar nine and Bailey seven. Kaiser and Harber each rounded the scorebook out with four points.
Jackson hit the court full throttle and beat Pinedale in the first quarter, 29-14. Bailey, McMillen, Ramage, Gosar and Harber kept the Wranglers on the scoreboard.
Jackson’s offense stalled in the second quarter, and the Wranglers outscored their rival, 14-12. Ramage led with a pair of 2-pointers. Sophomore Michael Hosler entered the fray and scored a 3-point play after catching a foul on a 2-pointer.
At halftime, Pinedale trailed by 13 points.
During the third quarter, two free throws by Gosar and a 3-pointer from junior Gaige Zook closed the gap to eight points.
Jackson revved back up later in the quarter, and managed to score 25 points, holding Pinedale to nine.
The Wranglers answered back in the fourth period and tossed in 23 points while holding the Broncs to 10. Gosar led with nine points, Kaiser added eight and McMillen made good on a pair of 3-pointers during the final quarter. In the final 10 seconds of the game, Gosar pulled off a steal and raced down the court for a layup.
Gosar totaled 18 points against Jackson and McMillen scored 14. Ramage and Kaiser both contributed eight points. Bailey, Michael Hosler and Zook all shot in three points with Harber adding two points plus a free throw by junior Tim Hosler.