When Michael Simmons could hardly crawl out of bed, let alone board the bus to Shoshoni Saturday with a bug or virus, he knew he had to turn the reins over to assistant coach Pat Winland for the final conference and regular season game.
Waiting for Winland and assistant coach Jeff Samson was a well-rested Shoshoni squad that kept five top players home from the trip to Lovell the night before. No problem. The Grizz clobbered the Wranglers 78-59.
“Fortunately, we have great assistants and like a first round game at Regionals we had all of their sets and in-bounds plays scouted,” Simmons said. “We had a full week of practice, and with only one game last week everyone there was confident in what we were doing.”
The win secured second place in the 2A Northwest final standings for the Grizz and gave them the second seed in this week’s 2A West Regional Tournament in Riverton. The Grizzlies will meet the Big Piney Punchers today (Thursday) at 12:30 p.m. in the first round of the tournament at Central Wyoming College in Riverton.
Saturday, the Grizzlies came out on fire and outscored the Wranglers 22-12 in the first quarter and 20-14 in the second to lead 42-26 at halftime. Lathan May scored 11 points in the half, Ethan Price 9 and Cole Simmons and Colby Davison 8 each.
The Grizzlies moved well without the ball to get open Coach Simmons said, noting that he was able to watch a live feed of the game and look at video afterward.
“We played like the first half of the Greybull game in the first two quarters, the fourth and about half of the third,” he said.
Shoshoni outscored Rocky Mountain 20-14 in the third quarter to trim the deficit to 10 points, 56-46, but the Grizz reignited their offense in the fourth quarter and pulled away with a 22-13 scoring advantage. Price drained four three-pointers in the second half to fuel the Grizz.
“The kids were making the extra pass,” Simmons said. “We had 23 assists on 27 made field goals. You don’t lose many games when you share the ball like that.”
He noted that the Grizzlies also shot 59 percent from the field overall and 69 percent (9-13) from three-point range. And the Grizz hit 15 of 16 free throw attempts – 94 percent.
But Simmons cautioned that, although the Grizzlies played very well in Shoshoni, they’ll need to step up for a tough tournament.
“This can’t be the highlight of our season,” he said. “I hope we can continue to stay healthy and continue doing what we’ve been doing.”
The coach said Saturday’s effort shows what a team effort can do for a basketball program.
“In 12 years I had never missed a game,” he said. “We’ve wanted to build a program that is bigger than one individual, and this shows that. The only way this works is to have great assistants, parents, cheerleaders, the whole group.”
Price finished with 21 points to lead the Grizz, hitting six of nine shots from beyond the arc. May added 17 points on seven-of-10 shooting, Davison 16 points on four-of-five shooting and Cole Simmons 12 points. Jonathan Allred scored 8 points.
Price and Davison snared eight rebounds each to lead the Grizz, and May and Tristan Jewell dished off seven assists each, Simmons five.
ROCKY MTN. (78)
Ethan Price 7 1-1 21, Scott Banks 0 0-0 0, Cole Simmons 4 4-4 12, Tristan Jewell 1 2-2 4, Lathan May 7 1-1 17, Travis Simmons 0 0-0 0, Colby Davison 5 5-6 16, Jonathan Allred 3 2-2 8. Totals 27 15-16 78.
Dylan Konija 0 0-0 0, Kade Sanderson 2 0-1 4, Wade Cornell 0 0-0 0, Anthony Cousineau 6 5-7 17, Zach Pickinpaugh 3 1-2 8, Jason Thoren 2 1-5 6, JJ Pingetzer 1 0-0 2, Gary Medicine Cloud 9 3-6 22. Totals 23 10-21 59.
Rocky Mt. 22 20 14 22 – 78
Shoshoni 12 14 20 13 – 59
Three-point field goals – Price 6, May 2, Davison 1; Pickinpaugh 1, Thoren 1, Medicine Cloud 1. Fouled out – none. Total fouls – Rocky 17, Shoshoni 18.
The Big Piney Punchers will be a formidable foe for the Grizz in the first round Thursday. Big Piney is 13-9 on the season and defeated Wyoming Indian in Ethete in late January.
“They are guard heavy and have two or three pretty good shooters,” Simmons said. “They don’t have a big inside presence. Their strength is on the outside. It’s a short week, but you prepare for one game. I’m confident we’ll have our ducks in a row when we get to them.”
If the Grizz win, they’ll almost certainly meet Wind River, the top seed from the Southwest, at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Riverton High School. If they lose to Big Piney, they will probably face Shoshoni again Friday at 1 p.m. at RHS.
By David Peck