Wranglers win cliffhanger against Big Piney

Robert Galbreath photo Junior Bridger Kaiser goes up to score against Big Piney on Feb. 16. Kaiser contributed 20 points to the final tally.

PINEDALE – Five minutes into the fourth quarter of the Feb. 16 game between the Pinedale Wranglers boys’ basketball team and the Big Piney Punchers at the Wrangler Gym, Big Piney tied the score, 52-52.

Junior Bridger Kaiser netted a pair of free throws and tossed in a layup before Big Piney retook the initiative, 59-56, with 59 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Kaiser rebounded a missed shot by the Punchers, passing the ball to junior Jayce Ramage. Ramage sunk a jumper. Kaiser caught a second defensive rebound and landed a layup, retaking the initiative for Pinedale, 60-59.

The game remained up in the air until Kaiser drew a foul. Stepping up to the charity stripe, he scored two baskets with 28.6 seconds remaining in regulation.

Pinedale led, 62-59.

In the final seconds of the game, junior Owen McMillen drew a foul and sunk a free throw.

After several rough seasons, the Wranglers managed to turn the tables against their cross-county rival and secure the county trophy with a 63-59 victory.

The Wranglers celebrated Senior Recognition Night on Feb. 16, honoring the contributions over four seasons by athletes Colby Bailey, Braiden Carter, Luke Gray and Michael Hosler.

“It was great to see the seniors on the floor together and for us to collectively get them a win on Senior Night,” said Head Coach Marcus Helland. “They are a huge part of the program and provide this team with so much.”

Bailey opened scoring for the Wranglers early in the first quarter with a jumper. Kaiser netted a close-range shot. Under heavy pressure, Ramage managed to score from inside the perimeter.

A jumper by Bailey tied the game, 8-8. Junior Josh Gosar followed up with an outside shot and Pinedale took the lead, 12-11, as the first quarter ended.

Pinedale controlled the scoreboard through the second quarter, outpacing Big Piney, 22-16.

Hosler scored twice from the charity stripe. Gosar netted a close-range shot. Kaiser snapped up a steal and went on to score a jumper.

Junior Brody Hamby forced a turnover, allowing Bailey to score from inside the perimeter.

McMillen made a layup before Big Piney snagged the lead by a single point, 22-21. Gosar pulled Pinedale back ahead with a pair of close-range shots.

Sophomore Nick Sletten entered the fray and netted 2 points from the free-throw line. Kaiser followed up with 2 more points from the charity stripe. McMillen converted an and-1.

Pinedale led, 33-28, when the halftime buzzer sounded.

Both the Wranglers and Punchers scored 19 points in a physical third quarter.

Kaiser picked off a steal and Gosar netted a layup, placing Pinedale ahead, 35-28, early in the third quarter.

Kaiser landed two free throws. McMillen and Gosar both scored outside shots, widening the Wranglers’ advantage, 43-32.

Pinedale maintained a 10-point lead, 48-38, following an outside shot by Hamby. Kaiser and Bailey both found openings in the perimeter to score as the third quarter wound down.

Big Piney managed to close the deficit in the fourth quarter and tie the game, 52-52, with 3 minutes remaining in regulation.

Kaiser responded with 2 points from the charity stripe and a layup before Big Piney retook the lead, 59-56.

Ramage netted a close-range shot and Kaiser sunk a layup and Pinedale found itself ahead, 60-59, with 59 seconds remaining on the clock.

Kaiser and McMillen sealed the win for the Wranglers from the free-throw line.

Kaiser led the Wranglers in scoring against Big Piney with 20 points. Gosar contributed 15 points, McMillen 9, Bailey 8, Ramage 4, Hamby 3, with 2 apiece from Hosler and Sletten.

The Wranglers travel for their final conference game of the regular season against Mountain View on Friday, Feb. 24, before the Regional Tournament kicks off on March 2.

“In preparation for our last game before Regionals, we are looking to clean up some things on both ends,” said Coach Helland. “We’re looking to gain some confidence on the offense end by making open shots.”