The Lady Grizz traveled to Casper to play some of the best basketball they’ve played all season at the Class 2A State Tournament, and for their efforts brought home the consolation champion trophy.
The girls were up against the Lady Eagles from Tongue River first, one of the toughest teams in the state and the eventual winner of the state championship title.
“We obviously knew we had a tough opponent with them,” said Coach Ryan Boettcher. “We prepared all week for that game and for the tournament in general and the girls came in with a good mindset. They stayed with them for the better part of three quarters and tied three times during the game. The girls played well, but the biggest thing with them is you have to keep them down or they score on you real fast.
The toughest thing is to limit them to the number of runs they can have and I thought we did a really good job of that throughout the game. They have some really good perimeter shooters and until the second half they hadn’t hit a three-pointer on us yet.
“It was a good tight game until they hit a three, then they got a steal, they made a layup and they got fouled. That was 6 points right there and it just opened the gates. They are a good team. They went undefeated this year and obviously no one was able to touch them.”
The Rocky girls fought hard but eventually fell 49-33 to the mighty Eagles.
“We had the closest halftime score of the tournament with them,” said Boettcher. “The girls did a nice job of being patient and getting the ball to Kallee (Wilson) in the game. Obviously, she had a monster game for us (14 points and 12 rebounds) and it was kind of a battle between her and their post player Sara Nielsen.”
Boettcher said he felt the team didn’t get enough perimeter-shooting going in the game.
“It would have been nice if we could have gotten a couple more perimeter shots. It might have opened things up for us a bit,” said Boettcher. “They started packing Kallee in during the second half. They were really doubling on her. She got to the line a few times in the second half but they made it really difficult for her to get things going.
“They’ve got size and they box out really well. Actually, they do a lot of things really well but we rebounded with them the whole game. They’re just a really good team and in the third and fourth quarter they just outscored us. They’re the kind of team that if you’re a little too aggressive and turn the ball over to them, they’re off to the races and that’s what you have to prevent them from doing the entire game.”
Mandee Leonhardt had 6 points, Mickaela Hocker had 1, Rachael Allred 3, Hannah Winland 2 and Shauna Loman 7.
“In general, I was proud of our efforts on the rebounding and defense. We followed what we planned to do in the game.”
On Friday, the Lady Grizz took down the Lady Cougars from Wind River, 54-45.
The girls led 37-30 after three quarters, but the Lady Cougars scored the first 11 points of the fourth period to lead 41-37. Then Winland heated up. The sharp-shooting junior drained two straight three-pointers to put the Grizz up 43-41, launching an 11-0 run that put Rocky on top 48-41.
Rocky Mountain outscored Wind River 17-4 over the last 4½ minutes of the game, and when they went to the foul line the Lady Grizz hit 11 of 17 free throws to seal the victory.
“Wind River is a team we lost to twice,” said Boettcher. “We played them at the beginning of the season and lost both times by about 10 points, so we knew they were a team we could play with and do well against. We were excited to play against them. Overall, defensively the team did well. They’re a big team with a lot of size and they post up really aggressively, but we took the game to them and they had a tough time reacting to that. I think they weren’t expecting that. All of the girls stepped up in this game.”
Brianna Hocker was the top scorer with 13, and Loman scored 11, Winland 9, Wilson 8, Leonhardt 7. Kelly Vezain stepped off the bench for 1 point.
Boettcher noted that the girls had 52 rebounds to Wind River’s 33.
“As a team we just really hit the glass,” said Boettcher. “We defended well and everybody worked really hard.”
Once the girls beat Wind River they became pretty focused on bringing home some hardware, said Boettcher. On Saturday, they faced Big Horn, another team they lost to twice during the season and prevailed 46-39.
With the game tied at intermission, the Lady Grizzlies came out and took control in the third quarter, outscoring the Big Horn squad 16-6. Wilson scored 10 points on a baseline power move, a bank shot inside, a strong follow shot and four of four free-throw attempts. Leonhardt added two jumpers, and Allred found Loman for an inside jumper. Rocky led 34-24 after three.
“We kind of took things over in the second half,” said Boettcher. “We changed up our defense a bit and again had a couple of foul issues to protect.”
Big Horn cut the deficit to six points halfway through the fourth quarter, 37-31, but a move and jumper by Loman and an inside power move by Wilson after a zip pass from Loman boosted the Rocky lead to 10 points again, 41-31.
A Bailey Bard trey and a Hanneah Puckett steal for Big Horn chopped the lead in half, but Wilson put the finishing touches on the win in the final minute and a half, hitting three of four free throws and a basket on a pass from Kelly Vezain to sew up win number 14 for the Lady Grizzlies.
Wilson had a huge game with 25 points and nine rebounds, Loman had 11 points and Leonhardt had 6 points.
“Not everybody got into the scoring column but everybody was in the game,” said Boettcher. “Some of them had to take care of the ball and guard some of their better players and we got good minutes from girls that came off the bench. We got good hustle from everybody who stepped on the court. Anytime you can come home from the state tournament with some hardware, it’s a good day. To win our last two games of the season and to avenge some losses was just a good way to end the year.”
By Patti Carpenter