PINEDALE – The Pinedale Wranglers entered the second half in one of their opening games trailing Big Horn by four points at the East-West Classic Tournament hosted by Buffalo on Dec. 10-11.
Big Horn missed its first shot in the third quarter, the ball rebounded by Pinedale sophomore Owen McMillen. McMillen dribbled down the court, noticed junior Michael Hosler open to the right and passed. Hosler wound up and sunk a 3-pointer.
The Pinedale defense forced Big Horn to turn over the ball on the next play. Sophomore Bridger Kaiser wedged himself through Big Horn’s defense for a layup.
Pinedale took the lead by a point.
Big Horn then sent the ball flying out of bounds. Sophomore Josh Gosar took possession and raced down the court. Junior Colby Bailey maneuvered himself under the basket. Gosar passed to Bailey and Bailey scored.
Pinedale’s lead grew to three points.
Kaiser caught a rebound and charged through Big Horn defense to make a second layup. Pinedale’s lead stretched to five points.
Despite the 9-0 run, Big Horn edged ahead in the fourth quarter to win the neck-and-neck game, 50-47.
Pinedale’s fight in the second and third quarters, closing the gap and taking the lead, was a high point in a tournament played against tough, physical opponents.
The battle against Big Horn followed a 79-52 loss to Rawlins on Friday afternoon.
The Wranglers ended the tournament falling to Buffalo, 72-24.
Despite the tally on the scoreboard, head coach Marcus Helland was pleased with the young team’s effort.
“I was proud of how hard the kids played this weekend,” he said. “We rebounded the ball really well, but still made a lot of young mistakes. There is room for improvement on both ends of the floor. We look forward to improving this week and will have another challenging weekend ahead playing some big schools.”
The Outlaws dominated the first quarter, scoring 19 points and holding Pinedale to nine. Gosar kept the Wranglers on the scoreboard with a set of 3-pointers, followed by a free throw from sophomore Jayce Ramage and a jumper from Kaiser.
Rawlins maintained its momentum into the second quarter, outscoring the Wranglers 17-14. Kaiser scored six points for the Wranglers. Gosar, senior Tim Hosler, Michael Hosler and McMillen each added two points.
The halftime score stood at 64-33 in the Outlaws’ favor.
Rawlins steamrolled into the third quarter and overwhelmed Pinedale with a 28-point explosion.
The Wranglers regrouped in the fourth quarter, answering back with 19 points while a tighter Pinedale defense held Rawlins to 15.
Gosar led Pinedale in scoring against Rawlins with 16 points. Kaiser sunk 13 points, while McMillen and Bailey both tallied eight points. Michael Hosler scored three points and Tim Hosler two. Ramage and junior Luke Gray rounded the scoreboard out with a free throw apiece.
A physical, defensive first quarter ended with the Rams ahead, 9-4.
Pinedale’s offense rebounded in the second quarter, outscoring Big Horn, 20-19.
Gosar snatched the ball, broke away and landed a layup, closing Pinedale’s deficit to three points. A close-range shot by Gosar put Pinedale within a point of overtaking Big Horn.
Bailey caught a steal, raced down the court, and landed a layup, Pinedale remaining one point behind the Rams.
The Rams pushed ahead but were answered by a 3-pointer from McMillen.
Big Horn took the initiative until an outside shot by Kaiser nearly tied the game.
The Rams edged ahead at the end of the second quarter and hit the locker rooms ahead, 28-24.
The Wranglers rebounded in the third quarter. Baskets by Michael Hosler, Kaiser and Bailey closed the gap with Big Horn and the Wranglers overtook the Rams by seven points with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
A point-for-point final quarter ended with Big Horn ultimately taking the win by only three points.
The Wranglers travel to Rock Springs and Green River this weekend for the Flaming Gorge Classic, taking on significantly larger schools including Laramie and Cheyenne South.