Second-half woes cost Bulldogs in title game loss

The pain of coming so close to a championship that they could almost taste it was etched on the faces of the Lovell Bulldogs Saturday night at the Casper Events Center after the Wyoming Indian Chiefs stopped the Bulldogs 68-57, earning their third state title in four years and their ninth overall, staking a claim that they are the dominant boys program in Class 2A.

The Lovell boys haven’t won a title since back-to-back championships in 2002-03.

Lovell led by 10 points twice in the third quarter, but the tide turned quickly and the Bulldogs seemed helpless to stop the Chiefs and their relentless defense and hot shooting. After a 37-27 lead, Wyoming Indian outscored Lovell 41-20 the rest of the way.

Sorrow could be seen on the faces of the Lovell boys basketball team near the end of the championship game loss to the Wyoming Indian Chiefs Saturday night at the Casper Events Center. Pictured are (l-r) Colin May, McKayan May and Dylan Hultgren.

Lovell came out strong and quickly forged a 10-5 lead, crashing the boards for follow shots, two each by McKayan May and Cody Savage and a baseline jumper by Ryan Clark. After a Chief bucket, Savage powered for two points and Colin May drove for two after a steal by his cousin McKayan to put the Bulldogs up 14-7. Wyoming Indian trimmed the deficit to one point, 14-13, but Lovell finished the quarter with a 7-0 run to lead 21-13 as Savage powered home a follow shot, found Clark inside for two and finished the quarter with a three-point play. Savage finished the quarter with 11 points.

“We wanted to press ‘em a little bit, and they turned the ball over early (eight times in the first quarter),” May said. “Our game plan was to work it inside to Cody and Ryan, and it seemed to be working pretty well. As I think back on it, we didn’t run a lot of things for Colin to get him going early. I think we were kind of one-dimensional. We should have gotten our perimeter game going and slashes to the basket.

“We did a good job in the first half against (John) Soundingsides. We held him to 5 points. But Colin only had 2, so you could say it was a draw. We owned the glass in the first half. The kids were doing great.”

Despite solid defense by the Bulldogs, Wyoming Indian gradually cut the lead to two, 21-19, in the second quarter as the Bulldogs couldn’t buy a basket at the offensive end. Finally, nearly four minutes into the quarter, Savage scored inside, then Dylan Hultgren hit a jumper in the lane as the Bulldogs went back up by six points, 25-19. Two buckets by the Chiefs were answered by two by the Bulldogs, a bank shot by Hultgren on an assist by Savage and a follow shot by Clark. Lovell led 29-23 at halftime.

Lovell shot just 40 percent from the field in the first half but had 11 offensive rebounds that resulted in 12 points.

In the third quarter, an early 6-2 run gave the Bulldogs a 35-25 lead as Clark scored inside, Savage hit a jumper and McKayan May scored a put-back. After Alvin Spoonhunter hit for the Chiefs, Clark followed his own miss – Lovell’s eighth put-back of the game – as Lovell led 37-27. It would be Lovell’s last basket of the quarter.

The Chiefs began one of their vaunted runs and the Bulldogs seemed powerless to stop them, going stone cold and/or losing the ball at one end, then watching as John Soundingsides (10 points during the run) or one of his teammates would either bury a trey or fly to the hoop. Wyoming Indian closed the quarter by outscoring Lovell 20-2 to lead 47-39 after three.

“We were focusing so much on going inside that when it wasn’t working we kind of stagnated a little bit,” May said. “When we got it into the post, they were double-teaming. We talked about kicking it back out. I kind of felt that was a lot of it.

“We were also getting beat at times one on one. We were opening up too much instead of squaring up with them.”

Although there was a quarter left to play, the game was never in doubt after that. Wyoming Indian scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to lead 51-39, and after a trey by Colin May and a Clark bucket on a May assist on either side of a Soundingsides bank shot, the Chiefs scored six straight to lead 59-44 with four minutes left in the game.

Lovell outscored Wyoming Indian 13-9 the rest of the way but could get no closer than nine points as the Chiefs celebrated their third consecutive post-season win over the Bulldogs in two years.

“In the fourth quarter we started trying to run things for Colin up high and he scored 11 points,” May said. “We had asked Colin to guard Soundingsides, too. We held Soundingsides to four points under his average, but Colin was seven under his average. I thought (Wilson) Clifford stepped up for them (12 points).

Wyoming Indian finished the game shooting 52 percent from the field to Lovell’s 36 percent, and while both teams had 21 turnovers, the Chiefs’ bench scored 20 points to Lovell’s 1.

Savage scored 17 points for the Bulldogs and pulled down 13 rebounds including five offensive rebounds. He also had five assists. Clark added 14 points and six rebounds, Colin May 13 points, six boards and four steals. McKayan May and Dylan Hultgren added 6 points each, with May also grabbing five rebounds.

Soundingsides scored 20 points for WIHS, Wilson Clifford and Spoonhunter 12 each.

The game was the final contest for seniors Colin May, Collin McArthur, Steven Pickett, Hunter Hinckley, McKayan May and Morgan Baxendale. The Bulldogs finished the season with a 22-7 record.

The box score:

WYO. INDIAN (68)

Tyler Penatac 2 0-0 4, Joey Aragon 2 0-0 5, Wilson Clifford 5 2-3 12, Joseph Howell 2 1-4 5, Ron Mitchell 2 2-2 6, Alvin Spoonhunter 5 2-4 12, John Soundingsides 7 3-4 20, Trevor Williamson 2 0-0 4. Totals 27 10-17 68.

LOVELL (57)

Colin May 4 3-4 13, Collin McArthur 0 0-0 0, Steven Pickett 0 0-0 0, Hunter Hinckley 0 0-0 0, McKayan May 3 0-1 6, Morgan Baxendale 0 1-2 1, Dylan Hultgren 3 0-0 6, Ryan Clark 7 0-1 14, Cody Savage 7 3-3 17. Totals 24 7-11 57.

WIHS 13 10 24 21 – 68

Lovelll 21 8 10 18 – 57

Three-point field goals – Soundingsides 3, Aragon 1; C. May 2. Fouled out – none. Total fouls – WIHS 14, Lovell 14.

By David Peck

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