Not many teams can say they finished the season with a win at tournament time, but the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies did one better, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with two straight wins and winning the state consolation title with a 54-45 win over the Big Horn Rams Saturday at the Casper Events Center.
The Grizzlies went nose to nose with the rugged Rams, who won the 2016 state football championship, and held the Rams to 29.8 percent shooting on the afternoon.
“We know each other,” coach Michael Simmons said. “We felt the team that worked the hardest would win. They have a bunch of football players who want to push you around, and we needed to take it and give a little bit back. Fortunately, our desire was a little bit greater than theirs, and that was the difference in the game.”
Rocky took an early 11-6 lead on three-pointers by Cole Simmons and Ethan Price and an old-fashioned three-point play by Simmons, plus a bucket from Lathan May on a pass from Tristan Jewell. Big Horn responded with a 6-0 run to lead 12-11, and after a bucket and free throw by Colby Davison the Rams went on to lead 16-14 at the end of an entertaining first quarter.
In the second quarter the score was tied at 17, 19 and 23, but the Grizzlies closed the first half with a 9-3 run to lead 32-26 at halftime.
Each team scored only 5 points in the third quarter, and after Big Horn closed to within two points early in the fourth, the Grizzlies reasserted control with an 11-2 burst to lead 48-37. Big Horn got no closer than five points after that and the Grizz hit five of six free throws in the final half minute to sew up the nine-point win.
An exhausted Grizzly squad took to the awards stand to receive the consolation championship trophy.
“We told them to empty the tank,” Simmons said. “As a staff we were glad they were willing to push themselves until they had nothing left. We’d played four games the weekend before, and this was our third game (in Casper). And we had the short rotation.”
Price finished with 18 points to lead the Grizzlies, and Simmons added 13 points, May 11. Simmons also grabbed nine rebounds, Price and Davison eight each. Jonathan Allred finished with 7 points and seven boards, and May added six rebounds and five steals. Jewell had five assists.
The game was the final contest for senior Cole Simmons. The Grizz finished the season 16-11.
“We have a young squad, and it was a great experience for the guys who haven’t played on that floor (Events Center) and been to State,” Coach Simmons said. “As a coach I appreciate Cole bridging the gap between Cannon (Simmons), Kirby (Winland) and Bill (Despain) and the next wave. One of my challenges to Cole was to get these kids the experience of playing on the big stage.
“We’ve got to pass the baton on, and I’m glad we didn’t drop it. We’re in good hands moving forward.”
BIG HORN (45)
Kade Eisele 2 3-5 7, Kade VanDyken 1 0-0 2, Colton Bates 5 2-5 15, Tanner Warder 3 0-2 6, Quinn McCafferty 0 0-0 0, Colton Williams 2 1-2 5, Nolan McCafferty 0 1-2 1, Wheaton Williams 4 1-3 9. Totals 17 8-19 45.
ROCKY MTN. (54)
Ethan Price 5 5-6 18, Scott Banks 0 0-0 0, Cole Simmons 3 6-7 13, Tristan Jewell 0 1-2 1, Lathan May 5 1-3 11, Travis Simmons 0 0-0 0, Colby Davison 1 2-4 4, Jonathan Allred 2 3-6 7. Totals 16 18-28 54.
Big Horn 16 10 5 14 – 45
Rocky Mt. 14 18 5 17 – 54
Three-point field goals – Bates 3; Price 3, C. Simmons 1. Fouled out – Eisele, Warder, N. McCafferty; May. Total fouls – Big Horn 25, Rocky 19.
By David Peck