On the field of battle a counter attack is often as important, if not more so, than the initial thrust, and such was the case in Saturday night’s regional championship game in Riverton as the Lovell Bulldogs responded to each Wyoming Indian High School push with an even better one.
The two longtime rivals played another classic, and for the third time this year, the Bulldogs came out on top, 56-50.
“We talked about being able to sustain their pushes,” Coach Brian May said. “We knew they would have opportunities, they just do, with a 6-0 run or an 8-0 run. We talked about maintaining our composure, and we called a timeout a couple of times to get the kids settled down.”
It was a battle of wills Saturday as Lovell used its inside power and Wyoming Indian its running game. Lovell came out strong and built a 12-3 lead with an 8-0 run, but Wyoming Indian battled back to cut the Lovell lead to three at the quarter break, 14-11. Lovell senior center Cody Savage established himself inside, scoring 6 points.
Alvin Spoonhunter tied the score at 14 for the Chiefs early in the second period, and Wyoming Indian took a 17-16 lead on a trey by Wilson Clifford. Kade Nicholls stole the ball and scored to put Lovell up 18-17.
Wyoming Indian put together a 6-0 run with a Joseph Howell follow shot, a fast-break hoop by Shane Willow and a layup by Spoonhunter to lead 23-18, and the two teams traded baskets until Lovell finished the half with a 6-0 burst capped by a three-pointer by senior Dylan Hultrgen.
The Bulldogs led 28-27 at halftime.
Baskets by Clifford and Howell put Wyoming Indian up 31-28 early in the third quarter, but again the Bulldogs responded with buckets by Savage and Ryan Clark following a Savage free throw to lead 33-31.
Clifford’s three-point play put Wyoming Indian up 34-33, but a strong drive by Savage launched an 11-3 run to close the quarter. The burst included a jumper in the lane by Chase Tippetts, two free throws by Brandon Wolvington, a Kade Nicholls free throw on a technical foul assessed to Joey Aragon, a Savage-to-Ellis feed and a Clark-to-Savage delivery.
Lovell led 44-37 after three.
Wyoming Indian crept back to within four points at 44-40, but Savage responded with a follow shot and a three-pointer to put Lovell up 49-40, which caused an exodus by many Wyoming Indian fans.
The Chiefs got as close as five points, 49-44, but Lovell worked the clock and scored to maintain the lead. Hultgren hit Savage for two, Ellis converted a three-point play and Savage scored inside as Lovell went on to win by six points, 56-50. The Bulldogs had not only weathered the storm, they had taken the game aggressively to the Chiefs.
“We were really proud of them,” May said. “We always talk about maintaining our composure. I thought we executed our offenses great. We were patient and got quality looks.
“There was a stretch in the fourth quarter when we weren’t executing like we should have, but we called time out and had the kids execute offensively. Having senior leadership helps a great deal.”
Savage led the team with 22 points on nine-of-14 shooting and pulled down 10 rebounds. Ellis added 10 points and seven rebounds, Clark 8 points and five rebounds, Nicholls 5 points and six steals, Hultgren 5 points and five assists.
The box score:
Chase Tippetts 2 0-0 4, Brandon Wolvington 0 2-2 2, Dylan Hultgren 2 0-3 5, Kade Nicholls 1 3-4 5, Austin Ellis 4 2-4 10, Ryan Clark 4 0-4 8, Cody Savage 9 3-4 22. Totals 22 10-21 56.
WYO. INDIAN (50)
Shane Willow 1 0-0 2, Tyler Penatac 0 3-4 3, Joey Aragon 2 0-0 4, Wilson Clifford 4 5-8 15, Joseph Howell 3 3-3 9, Alvin Spoonhunter 3 0-0 7, Trevor Williamson 4 1-2 10, Robert Aragon 0 0-2 0, Donald Clifford 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 9-18 50.
Lovell 14 14 16 12 – 56
WIHS 11 16 10 13 – 50
Three-point field goals – Hultgren 1, Savage 1; W. Clifford 2, Spoonhunter 1, Williamson 1. Fouled out – J. Aragon, Howell. Total fouls – Lovell 13, Wyo. Indian 20.
Now 22-1, the Bulldogs will open state tournament play against the fourth seed from the east, Burns, at 9 p.m. Thursday at Casper College. Burns is 13-12 on the season, coming into the 2A East Regional as the third seed from the Southeast. The Broncs went 2-2 in their regional, falling to Moorcroft 56-55, eliminating Wright by the same score, crushing Tongue River 76-57, then dropping the third-place game to Lusk, 69-34.
“They have some size including a kid about 6-2, 250,” May said. “They have a couple of perimeter kids who will come out and hit the three-point shot.
“Defensively, they play a lot of zone, but a lot of our best offenses come against zones. We’ve had a lot of opportunities against a lot of different zones. Our kids are doing a good job making the zone shift and getting quality looks.”
If the Bulldogs win, they will play the winner of the Moorcroft-Thermopolis game Friday at 9 p.m. at the Casper Events Center. Both teams play an up-tempo style. Moorcroft (18-8) is the second seed out of the east, Thermopolis (15-12) the third seed out of the west. Moorcroft edged Burns and top-seeded Lusk at the east regional before falling to Big Horn in the regional title game, 56-46.
On the other side of the 2A bracket are Big Horn, Big Piney, Wyoming Indian and Lusk.
By David Peck