To say that the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies “came to play” against the Lovell Bulldogs Friday night would be an understatement. Indeed, the Grizz had fire in their eyes as they crushed the Bulldogs 65-36 at Winterholler Gym.
The Grizzlies came out firing on all cylinders Friday and quickly built a 9-0 lead as Cannon Simmons zipped a pass to Joey Jewell for a basket, Kirby Winland knocked down a baseline jumper, Winland slashed for two on a fast break and Simmons drained a three-pointer. The Grizz went on to lead 18-4 at the quarter break.
Simmons was pleased with his team’s strong start in an emotional rivalry game.
“Any good rivalry becomes a game in and over itself, regardless of who has the advantage on paper,” the coach said. “We were very focused. We had a good week of practice and the kids knew what was at stake. I think a little of the disappointment from the Greybull game the kids used as fuel to stay focused and take care of the things we could take care of like sharing the ball and trusting teammates.
“As we continue to do that (share and trust) and don’t have to think about it, it becomes second nature and becomes more fluid and reactive and less mechanical. We have the same guys running the same sets and are getting better at running it.”
Simmons said it was important to get off to a good start against a solid team in their own gym and to play aggressive ball early.
“It was a game where we felt the longer Lovell stayed in it, with the home court the advantage goes to the home team,” he said. “We felt we had fresh legs and had the advantage getting up and down the floor. We had played more conservatively in the earlier game (in December).”
A drive by Simmons and jumpers by Winland and Jewell put Rocky up 24-4 early in the second quarter, and after Brandon Wolvington and CJ Murphey scored for Lovell, Rocky launched a 10-0 run to lead 34-8 and went on to lead 36-12 at halftime.
Lovell coach Craig Lundberg said he was disappointed with how his squad came out and competed against Rocky Mountain.
“It was like they weren’t mentally ready for this game, and it showed right from the start,” he said. “Rocky played a heck of a game, and it’s been kind of the tale of the tape for us that if we come out and hit a couple of shots early the boys feed off of that, but if we miss a couple of shots (early) it affects us for the rest of the game.
“Rocky came out and they were the more confident team. We turned the ball over too much and reverted back to our play at the beginning of the year. As a coach you don’t like to see your team take steps backward. Offensively, we weren’t able to get into our sets well and run what we thought would be successful.”
After using a 2-2-1 full-court zone press and a three-quarter-court man-to-man press in the first half, Rocky Mountain fell back into more of a half-court game in the second half and outscored Lovell 15-13 in the third quarter and 14-11 in the fourth to win 65-36.
“It was a rough game,” Lundberg said, “one of those where you tell the boys they have to learn from it and move on.”
All 11 varsity players scored for Rocky as Winland led the way with 16 points and Cannon Simmons added 13, Tanner Coleman 12. Rocky shot 43 percent from the field and 65 percent from the free-throw line and had 14 turnovers to Lovell’s 24. Jewell and Bill Despain grabbed nine rebounds each, and Despain led the Grizz with seven assists. Winland had four blocked shots, Coleman four steals.
Murphey led Lovell with 7 points, and Beau Green added 6, Wolvington and Mysen McArthur 5 each. The Bulldogs shot 33 percent from the field and 36 percent from the foul line. McArthur and Nic Haskell led the team with five rebounds each, and Green had five assists.
Xavier Mangus 0 1-3 1, John Higgins 1 0-0 2, Joey Jewell 3 0-1 6, Bill Despain 3 0-0 7, Caleb Horrocks 1 1-2 3, Kirby Winland 8 0-0 16, Cole Wambeke 0 2-2 2, Cannon Simmons 3 6-6 13, Cole Simmons 1 0-2 2, Tanner Coleman 4 2-2 12, Jacob Price 0 1-2 1. Totals 24 13-20 65.
Dylan See 1 0-0 2, Chase Tippetts 2 0-2 4, Jacob Newman 0 0-0 0, Brandon Wolvington 2 1-2 5, Mysen McArthur 2 1-2 5, Morgan May 1 0-0 2, Caleb Bischoff 0 1-3 1, Beau Green 3 0-0 6, Nic Haskell 2 0-0 4, CJ Murphey 3 1-2 7. Totals 16 4-11 36.
Rocky 18 18 15 14 – 65
Lovell 4 8 13 11 – 36
Three-point field goals – Coleman 2, Despain 1, Ca. Simmons 1. Fouled out – none. Total fouls – Rocky 12, Lovell 20.
By David Peck