Playing a rare pre-Christmas conference game, the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies stopped new 2A Northwest member Thermopolis at Cowley Thursday night, 65-56, and now sit atop the conference standings.
Traveling to Burlington Saturday, the Grizzlies fell to the Huskies 49-37.
At home Thursday night, the Grizz jumped on top of the Bobcats 17-9 in the first quarter as Bryce Ward had the hot hand, scoring 7 points.
“We had prepared for them,” coach Michael Simmons said. “We were able to get pretty good information on them.”
Both teams struggled at the free-throw line – Rocky 2-6 and Thermop 1-8 – in the second quarter, but Thermop hit three more baskets and outscored the Grizz 14-9 to cut the Rocky lead to three, 26-23, at halftime. Simmons said the Grizzlies did a pretty good job against Bobcat sharp-shooter Tanner Abbott, who scored 9 points in the first 16 minutes.
“We played everybody straight up,” Simmons said when asked if the Grizz had a special plan for Abbott. “We wanted to come out and see what he would do against us. We started out in a man (defense) with Derik Romero on him just to harass him at little bit. Pretty quickly we went to a 1-3-1 and played most of the rest of the game in that, except for a little man and a 2-3 just to keep them guessing. He didn’t hurt us until the fourth quarter, when he got some layups.”
Rocky outscored Thermop 20-16 in a lively third quarter to lead 46-39 after three as Romero scored 8 points, and the Grizz increased the lead to about 18, Simmons said, before the Bobcats fought back.
“I made the rest of our coaches on the bench nervous,” Simmons said. “I tried some things and went to the bench sooner. We started out hot and extended our full-court pressure and got the lead up to 18 or so.”
Ward finished with 20 points, draining four three-pointers along the way, and Romero added 16, a varsity career high, Simmons said.
“His strength is getting to the hole,” Simmons said of Romero. “He’s quick off the dribble, and when he takes the extra dribble and gets to the rim, he’s more effective.”
Michael Bernhisel added 9 points, seven rebounds and four steals, Shane Wocicki 8 points and five rebounds, Kirby Winland 4 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots, Brandon Altman 4 points and six boards and Joey Jewell 4 points. Bernhisel, Bill Despain and Cannon Simmons had three assists each.
Abbott finished with 23 points for the Bobcats, 9 in the fourth quarter.
The box score:
Tanner Abbott 9 2-9 23, Kacy Conner 5 2-8 12, Lane Schmidt 3 0-0 6, Christian Syverson 3 0-0 6. Totals 24 5-21 56.
Brandon Altman 2 0-1 4, Xavier Mangus 0 0-0 0, Michael Bernhisel 3 2-3 9, Shane Wocicki 4 0-3 8, Joey Jewell 2 0-1 4, Bill Despain 0 0-2 0, Kirby Winland 1 2-2 4, Derik Romero 7 1-1 16, Cannon Simmons 0 0-0 0, Bryce Ward 8 0-0 20. Totals 27 5-13 65.
Thermop 9 14 16 17 – 56
Rocky 17 9 20 19 – 65
Three-point field goals – Abbott 3; Ward 4, Bernhisel 1, Romero 1. Fouled out – none. Total fouls – Thermop 17, Rocky 18.
Loss at Burlington
The Grizz ran into the tough Burlington Huskies Saturday in Burlington, falling 49-37 on a cold shooting afternoon.
“We had a great practice Friday and worked on some things we’ve wanted to work on over the break,” Simmons said. “We’ve introduced some new stuff, some different looks out of our 1-3-1 zone. We had some little tweaks that we needed to make. I felt by doing that (early) we’d have some game film on it.”
Burlington led by one after the first quarter, 11-10, and the Grizz continued to hang tough for about half of the second before the Huskies pulled away to lead 27-17 at halftime.
“We shot some more threes, going to more of an outside game,” Simmons said. “But we just didn’t shoot the ball well. We played good defense, but they got to the line and hit some free throws. We had some (fouls) 20 to 30 feet from the basket. Those were not good fouls.”
Burlington outscored Rocky 8-7 from the field, but while the Grizz didn’t shoot a free throw in the second quarter, Burlington shot 9 foul shots, hitting eight.
Burlington outscored the Grizz 11-7 in the third quarter, while Rocky came back in the fourth for a 13-11 advantage but couldn’t make up the deficit, never able to heat up from long range.
“They extended a 1-3-1 in the second half and we had some great looks from three, but we weren’t hitting,” Simmons said. “We were three of 25 from beyond the arc, and yet it was one of the best games we’ve had for shot selection. We were getting the shots we wanted.”
Ward led the Grizz with 16 points, and Bernhisel added 8. Winland finished with seven rebounds and three blocks to lead the team, and Romero had five steals.
The difference in the game was foul shooting. Rocky shot 13 free throws, hitting six. Burlington went to the line 25 times and hit 17.
The box score:
Brandon Altman 0 0-0 0, Xavier Mangus 0 0-0 0, Michael Bernhisel 3 0-0 8, Shane Wocicki 0 0-0 0, Joey Jewell 0 0-0 0, Bill Despain 0 0-0 0, Kirby Winland 2 0-0 4, Derik Romero 2 2-6 6, Cannon Simmons 1 1-2 3, Bryce Ward 6 3-5 16. Totals 14 6-13 37.
Rian McIntosh 2 0-0 4, Daniel Davidson 3 3-6 9, Jess McNiven 1 7-10 9, Anson George 5 0-0 10, Trevor Wardell 0 1-2 1, Nicholas Carrizales 2 0-0 4, James Davidson 0 0-0 0, Preston Wardell 3 6-7 12. Totals 16 17-25 49.
Rocky 10 7 7 13 – 37
Burlington 11 16 11 11 – 49
Three-point field goals – Bernhisel 2, Ward 1. Fouled out – none. Total fouls – Rocky 22, Burlington 17.
The Grizz are now off for the holidays until they host the Burlington Huskies for a rematch Friday, Jan. 6, at 4 (JV) and 7 p.m.
“During the break we’ll work on our transition defense from full court or three-quarter court back into a half-court set,” Simmons said. “We have a lot of new stuff this year, so we’ll be learning assignments and different roles. We have different strengths with different players. We’ll also work on our weak-side rebounding.
“Offensively, we’ve done a better job with shot selection, but we can still improve – when to penetrate and get to the rim and when to take the three. We want to continue to get into better shape and maintain that through Christmas.”
JVs drop two
The Rocky JVs lost a pair of games over the weekend, falling to Thermopolis at home Thursday, 47-40, then losing at Burlington 51-33 on Saturday.
In Thursday’s game, the Grizz led 29-25 after three quarters, but the Bobcats outscored the home team 13-9 in the fourth to force overtime, then outscored the Grizz 9-2 in overtime. Bill Despain led the Grizzlies with 15 points, and Kirby Winland added 12, Cannon Simmons 8 and Tanner Coleman 5.
Rocky led Burlington 13-9 after the first quarter Saturday, but the Huskies outscored the Grizz 32-11 over the next two periods to take charge of the game. Joey Jewell scored 9 points, Xavier Mangus, Despain, Winland and Simmons 4 each, Caleb Horrocks and Coleman 3 apiece, Jordan Arnold 2.
By David Peck