Grizz get their motors running with big wins

After a 1-2 opening-weekend start that saw the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies up and down with their high-octane offense, the Grizz were firing on all cylinders this past weekend with double-digit victories over Tongue River at home and Wind River on the road.

The Grizz clobbered visiting Tongue River Friday afternoon in Cowley, 68-49, then beat Wind River in Pavillion, 71-35, Saturday afternoon, their second win over the Cougars in two weeks.

The Grizz were hit and miss at the Big Horn Basin Shootout in south Big Horn County, crushing Wind River, falling to Kemmerer by two in a hard-fought ballgame and going ice cold against Big Piney in an 11-point loss that saw their scoring output decrease from 82 against Wind River to 26 against the Punchers.

“We had a great week of practice,” even with a couple of players sitting out at times with sickness, coach Michael Simmons said. “Our number one team had a different five every day, but that leads to rotating seven people fairly evenly. On any given night it’s been different individuals. If somebody’s sick it’s easy to slide somebody into that spot.

“We got back to where we were in that first game Friday, and we continued to jell. It’s early, and the learning curve is steeper before Christmas than after.”

Rocky Mountain sophomore center Kirby Winland powers for two points against the Tongue River Eagles on Friday afternoon in Cowley. The Grizzlies swept Tongue River and Wind River over the weekend and host Burlington Saturday afternoon.

Rocky never trailed in Friday’s win over TR. Senior Bryce Ward led an early 7-0 run with a three-point play (power basket and free throw) and a three-pointer, and a 10-0 run midway through the quarter that included a follow shot by Kirby Winland, two buckets (including a trey) by Shane Wocicki and a three-point play by Cannon Simmons put Rocky up 19-5, and the Grizz led 21-11 after the first quarter.

The Grizzlies continued to pour it on in the second quarter, outscoring Tongue River 11-5 to lead 32-16 at halftime.

The Grizz built the lead to 45-23 midway through the third, but Tongue River was able to close the quarter with a 10-3 run to cut the deficit to 15, 48-33. The Grizz outscored TR 20-16 in the fourth to win by 19, 68-49.

“Early in the season we’re still struggling to play 32 minutes at the pace we want to play,” Simmons said. “Until we get a perfect rotation and balance minutes there will be up and downs. Sometimes we run the five (that are scoring well) too long. We did a better job with that the next night.”

Sophomore Kirby Winland had an excellent all-around game for the Grizz, finishing with 15 points, 17 rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals. Shane Wocicki also scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds. Bryce Ward added 13 points, three assists and three steals, Cannon Simmons 9 points and Michael Bernhisel 5 points and three assists.

The box score:

TONGUE RIVER (49)

Chase Linhart 1 0-0 2, Cody Jolovich 1 0-0 2, Wyatt Main 3 5-8 11, Austen Scammon 2 2-2 6, Matt Yellowtail 60-1 13, Tanner Dockery 1 2-3 4, Keenan Gross 2 2-2 7, Lane Dockery 2 0-2 4. Totals 18 11-18 49.

ROCKY (68)

Xavier Mangus 0 0-0 0, Joey Jewell 2 0-0 4, Michael Bernhisel 1 2-3 5, Shane Wocicki 4 4-4 15, Caleb Horrocks 0 0-0 0, Bill Despain 1 1-2 4, Kirby Winland 7 1-2 15, Bryce Ward 3 4-5 13, Cannon Simmons 4 1-1 9, Tanner Coleman 1 0-0 3, John Higgins 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 13-17 68.

Tongue River 11 5 17 16 – 49

Rocky Mtn. 21 11 16 20 – 68

Three-point field goals – Yellowtail 1, Gross 1; Wocicki 3, Bernhisel 1, Despain 1, Coleman 1. Fouled out – none. Total fouls – TR 18, Rocky 19.

Clubbing the Cougars

If anything, the Grizz turned up the intensity and the running game a notch in Pavillion Saturday, knowing they didn’t have another game for several days, Simmons said about Rocky’s 71-35 win.

“Once we were up on Tongue River we pulled the press off a bit earlier,” he said, “but in this game we had nothing to save anything for. We got up and down the floor for a lot of uncontested layups, especially in the second half. Then and in the last few minutes of the second quarter it was a layup fest. They weren’t getting back.”

Five players scored in the first quarter as Rocky built a 15-8 lead, and they broke the game open in the second period by outscoring the home team 19-5 to lead 34-13 at intermission. A 16-9 advantage left the Grizz up 50-22 after three quarters, and the Grizz also won the fourth, 21-13.

“They fought back early in the third quarter for two or three minutes and made a fight of it, then they kind of went flat,” said Simmons, noting that he emptied his bench about a minute into the fourth.

All 11 members of the varsity squad scored led by Jewell, Simmons and Ward with 12 points each. Winland added 8 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and three steals, Despain 8 points, three assists and three steals. Ward also had three assists, and Jewell led the team with nine rebounds.

The box score:

ROCKY (71)

Xavier Mangus 1 2-4 4, Joey Jewell 6 0-0 12, Michael Bernhisel 1 0-0 3, Shane Wocicki 1 2-2 4, Caleb Horrocks 0 2-2 2, Bill Despain 4 0-0 8, Kirby Winland 4 0-3 8, Bryce Ward 5 0-0 12, Cannon Simmons 6 0-0 12, Tanner Coleman 1 1-2 3, John Higgins 1 1-1 3. Totals 30 8-14 71.

WIND RIVER (35)

Bryce Hankins 2 0-0 5, Caleb C’Bearing 2 0-0 5, B. Roanhorse 1 0-2 3, Zach Lindstadt 1 0-0 3, Ryan Weliever 3 1-6 7, Delsha Roanhorse 1 2-2 4, Cory Cress 1 0-0 2, B. Miller 1 2-4 4, Dakota Snyder 0 0-2 0, Luke Tidzump 0 2-2 2. Totals 12 7-18 35.

Rocky 15 19 16 21 – 71

W River 8 5 9 13 – 35

Three-point field goals – Ward 2, Bernhisel 1; Hankins 1, C’Bearing 1, B. Roanhorse 1, Lindstadt 1. Fouled out – none. Total fouls – Rocky 13, Wind River 15.

Burlington at home

The Grizzlies will host the Burlington Huskies Saturday for their only contest of the weekend. The Huskies are 4-0 on the young season with wins over Wind River (66-21), Big Piney (59-35), Shoshoni (48-12) and Riverside (61-10).

Simmons said the Huskies have great size in Preston Wardell, Daniel Davidson and Jess McNiven, as well as strong guards in Nicholas Carrizales and Matt Christiansen.

“Their guards are good enough that it will be difficult to maintain the tempo we want to maintain,” the coach said. “They’re a disciplined enough team that I’m sure they’ll try to make it a half-court game.

“This will allow us to work on some of our half-court sets. I’m excited for a different week of practice and preparing for a more disciplined team.”

Tip-off times Saturday are scheduled for 1 (JV) and 4 p.m.

By David Peck

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