After splitting their final 3A games of the season, the Lovell Bulldogs will turn their attention to foes in the 2A Northwest knowing they’ve been competitive against the higher classification with a 4-4 record.
The Bulldogs (6-4) fell to third-ranked Cody 58-53 in a thriller at home Friday, then clobbered Worland 53-44 Saturday, also at Winterholler Gym.
Two of Lovell’s four losses this season have come at the hands of the Cody Broncs, but like the game at the Big Horn Basin Classic a week earlier that went into overtime, Friday night’s game was highly competitive.
“They’re a good team,” coach Craig Lundberg said of the visiting Broncs. “We’d just played them the week before, so we knew what matchups we’d be facing and what we were up against.”
Cody features a strong inside-out combination in the form of rugged senior center Zech Todd (6-8) and quick, sharpshooting guard Elijah Leyva, and both hurt the Bulldogs Friday. Todd scored 18 points, Leyva 21.
“We struggled with that (combination) in the first game, and we had the same issues Friday,” Lundberg noted. “With Todd, either you try to front him so they have to throw it over the top or you play behind him to make him have to shoot over you. He got some easy buckets, that’s for sure.
“We also knew what to expect from Elijah. He’ll shoot a ton and you have to disrupt his rhythm. If you can get him to take a tough shot you’ve won that battle. When he catches and shoots in rhythm he’s got a good chance of making it.”
Overall, however, the story of the game was empty possessions caused by turnovers, Lundberg said. The Bulldogs had 24 turnovers on the night.
“That’s the story of the night,” he said. “We’d get a steal or do something well, but we’d come right back down and give it back. We kind of neutralized ourselves.”
Cody led 11-7 after a low-scoring first quarter, but the Bulldogs outscored the Broncs 21-14 in the second to lead 28-25 at halftime as they scored 14 consecutive points to finish the second quarter.
With his team trailing 25-14, senior guard Kyle Wolvington fed Ben Cornia for two points, then scored on a follow layup and a drive and bank. Cody called time out, but the Broncs found a lid on the basket and the Bulldogs hit five of eight free throws in the final 1:13 and Jeremy Schneider drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Lovell a three-point lead at intermission.
“We had a great second quarter,” Lundberg said. “I was happy with the way we attacked the basket and got to the line. Something we’ve been doing well the last several games is attacking. We’ve got to keep doing that. It was a good game for us.”
The two teams traded baskets in the third quarter, leaving the score tied 38-38 until Cody finished the quarter with three straight buckets to lead 44-38 after three.
Lovell fought back in the fourth and three times got within one point, the last coming with about two minutes to play on an inside hoop by Wolvington. But the ball didn’t bounce the home team’s way in the final two minutes as Cody outscored Lovell 8-4 to win by five.
“The kids were down (after the game). They felt they let it slip away,” Lundberg said. “We told them right now just to keep learning from this kind of thing.”
Brent Snyder came on in the second half to lead the Bulldogs with 18 points, 16 in quarters three and four.
“In the first half Brent struggled getting his shot,” Lundberg said. “We talked to him about how to get to the spot he wants. Overall, I was pleased with our effort. We’ve got to take care of the ball better.”
Wolvington added 13 points, Cornia 10 and Schneider 9.
Zech Todd 7 4-6 18, Elijah Leyva 4 10-12 21, Nic Nieters 1 0-0 2, Keegan Brown 2 0-0 5, Cooper Brown 1 2-2 4, Peter Klessens 3 0-1 6, Reece Andre 1 0-1 2. Totals 19 16-22 58.
Brenden Lundberg 1 0-2 2, Mat Savage 0 1-2 1, Ben Cornia 4 1-2 10, Kyle Wolvington 4 5-7 13, Brent Snyder 6 6-7 18, Jeremy Schneider 2 4-4 9. Totals 1717-24 53.
Cody 11 14 19 14 – 58
Lovell 7 21 10 15 — 53
Three-point field goals – Leyva 3, K. Brown 1; Cornia 1, Schneider 1. Fouled out – none. Total fouls – Cody 22, Lovell 17.
Win over Worland
The Bulldogs jumped on the Worland Warriors Saturday night to build a 16-4 lead after the first quarter. Lovell locked down on defense, and Wolvington and Snyder scored 6 points each.
“We controlled the tempo from the opening tip,” Lundberg said. “That’s what we had talked about. Worland wants to play helter-skelter and pressure and get deflections all over the floor. We wanted to be patient and not play into that and get into too big of a hurry.”
The Bulldogs continued to pour it on in the second quarter and outscored Worland 19-14 to lead 35-18 at halftime. Snyder scored 10 more points in the quarter, knocking down a pair of three-pointers in the process to give him 16 first-half points.
“Brent played extremely well against Worland. He’s been consistent all season,” Lundberg said. “He was forcing some shots early in the season but now he’s taking what the defense gives him and is playing smarter. He knows where his strengths are.”
The Lovell offense cooled off in the second half, though the Bulldogs outscored Worland 8-7 in the third quarter to lead 43-25. Worland won the fourth, 19-10, most of the scoring coming late as Lundberg emptied the bench.
“I was pleased with the way the boys played defense against Worland,” Lundberg said. “They like to chuck it up from the outside and shot more threes (22) than twos (21). We didn’t let their pressure bother us and kept out composure well.”
Snyder finished with 21 points, Wolvington 12 and Schneider 8. Mat Savage and Cornia scored 6 apiece.
The Bulldogs will begin 2A Northwest Conference play Friday when they travel to Greybull to meet the Buffs at 4 (JV) and 7 p.m. Greybull is 5-7 this season so far after going 1-2 at the Big Horn Basin Classic and dropping games to Tongue River and Big Horn over the weekend.
“Greybull is always tough at home,” Lundberg said. “You’ve got to be ready to play and ready to compete any time you play Greybull. They have Riley Hill in the middle, and the Tracy kid (Braeden) can shoot the three. They have some guards who do a good job.
“We need to make sure we’re communicating and be aware of where Hill is. He’s a big, strong kid.”
Saturday, the Bulldogs travel to Casper to meet the Burns Broncs from the Southeast 2A. Burns is 4-10 on the season so far.
Tip-off times are Casper Kelly Walsh are set for 2:30 (JV) and 5:30 p.m.
Rylan Mocko 2 1-2 5, Wyatt Wyman 0 1-2 1, Bryan Vidoria 1 0-0 2, Andrew Edholm 4 3-5 11, Jaden Mickelson 0 3-4 3, Rudy Sanford 2 0-0 4, McCoy Molzahn 2 1-2 7, Luke Mortimer 1 0-0 3, Jadon Swalstad 2 0-1 4, Chris Nicholas 1 0-0 3. Totals 15 9-16 44.
Brenden Lundberg 0 0-1 0, Mat Savage 1 4-5 6, Ben Cornia 2 2-6 6, Kyle Wolvington 3 5-7 12, Brent Snyder 7 5-6 21, Jeremy Schneider 3 2-5 8. Ethan Hessenthaler 0 0-3 0. Totals 17 15-33 53.
Worland 4 14 7 19 – 44
Lovell 16 19 8 10 – 53
Three-point field goals – Molzahn 2, Mocko 1, Mortimer 1, Nicholas 1; Snyder 2, Wolvington 1. Fouled out – none. Total fouls – Worland 22, Lovell 17.
By David Peck