RAWLINS – The Pinedale High School Wrangler boys’ basketball team continues to prove its mettle, scoring two significant wins at the Rawlins Winter Classic Tournament on Jan. 6-7.
Finding redemption from the previous season, the Wranglers trounced their cross-county rival, the Big Piney Punchers, 82-58, in the opening game on Friday.
Pinedale dueled 3A Northwest Quadrant opponent Worland on Saturday morning. The Worland Warriors established a commanding 15-point lead early in the first quarter.
Resolved to battle back, the Wranglers nearly closed the gap and trailed by only two possessions through the second and third quarter. Pinedale came up short in the fourth quarter and ultimately fell, 64-51.
Snapping back from the Worland game, the Wranglers resolved to defeat 3A rival Thermopolis on Saturday evening. The Pinedale offense and defense came out strong against the Bobcats in the first half and went on to score a resounding 75-54 win against Thermopolis.
“We played hard all weekend,” said Head Coach Marcus Helland. “Our players were disappointed in how they started the game against Worland, but I was proud of how they battled back from that 2-17 start. We were able to turn Big Piney and Thermopolis over, which led to great transition opportunities throughout the games.”
The Wranglers set a blistering pace in the first quarter, outscoring the Punchers, 20-4.
Junior Josh Gosar netted a 3-pointer in the opening seconds of the game. Defensive pressure by Gosar and junior Owen McMillen resulted in a turnover. Gosar scored two points from the charity stripe.
Junior Bridger Kaiser picked off a steal and tossed in a jumper. Senior Colby Bailey rustled a steal and McMillen netted an outside shot.
Junior Jayce Ramage forced a turnover and Bailey made a close-range shot. Senior Michael Hosler scored on a fast break. Gosar netted a second 3-pointer.
Maintaining the pressure into the second quarter, Pinedale scored 30 points and held Big Piney to 21. Gosar opened the quarter with an outside shot. McMillen grabbed a steal and sank a jumper.
McMillen scored from outside the paint. Bailey went on a 5-point run. Kaiser snapped up a pair of steals and broke through the perimeter to score.
Junior Brody Hamby converted an and-1. Hosler snatched a steal and Hamby netted a 3-pointer. Gosar made a close-range shot and Hosler went on a 6-point run. McMillen rounded out scoring with a layup.
The halftime score favored Pinedale, 50-25.
Both teams scored 21 points in a neck-and-neck third quarter. McMillen swished a 3-pointer. Bailey scored inside the paint. McMillen, Bailey, Gosar and Hamby each netted close-range shots. McMillen sunk another 3-pointer. Kaiser and Ramage both found openings inside the perimeter to score.
Big Piney outmaneuvered Pinedale in scoring during the fourth quarter, 12-11. Pinedale’s commanding lead from the first half carried the Wranglers over. Gosar, Hosler, Bailey, McMillen and Hamby each contributed points through the final quarter.
McMillen led the Wranglers in scoring against Big Piney with 20 points. Gosar netted 18 points, Hosler 14, Bailey and Hamby 10 apiece, Kaiser 6 and Ramage 4.
The Warriors hit the ground running and pulled ahead by 15 points in the first four minutes of the game.
Finding their footing, the Wranglers began to answer back midway into the first quarter. Ramage sunk a jumper. Hamby netted a 3-pointer and scored on a fast break. McMillen tossed in a 3-pointer.
Pinedale fought to close the gap in a physical second quarter, outscoring Worland, 14-12. A pair of free throws from Kaiser closed the deficit to 3 points. Hamby sunk a 3-pointer, bringing the Wranglers to within a single possession of overtaking the Warriors.
At halftime, Worland led by only 4 points, 31-26.
Pinedale kept the heat on in the third quarter, netting 15 points to 14 from Worland. McMillen scored a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from mid-court to shrink Worland’s lead, 45-41, at the end of the third quarter.
Hamby led scoring against Worland with 13 points. Kaiser tossed in 12 points with 10 apiece from Gosar and McMillen. Bailey scored 4 points and Ramage 2.
The Wranglers netted 16 points in the first quarter. Gosar led in scoring with 7 points.
Pulling out all the stops in an explosive second quarter, the Wranglers sunk 25 points. Kaiser contributed 9 points to the scoreboard and McMillen scored a pair of outside shots.
The Wranglers steamrolled through the third quarter, tallying 20 points. Hosler made three of three baskets from the free-throw line.
Kaiser posted 20 points against Thermopolis. Gosar netted 18 points, McMillen 12, Bailey 7, Ramage and Hosler 5 each, Hamby 4 and sophomore Nick Sletten and senior Braiden Carter 2 apiece.
The Wranglers host non-conference rival Jackson on Friday, Jan. 13. Freshmen play at 3 p.m., followed by junior varsity at 4:30 p.m., girls’ varsity at 6 p.m. and boys’ varsity at 7:30 p.m.