Playing their second straight tournament on the road, the Lovell Bulldogs won their first game of the season at the Lander Classic Friday, then dropped a pair on Saturday.
Coach Craig Lundberg said his young squad showed signs of improvement during the weekend and looked strong when they were clicking.
“We’re starting to be a little more consistent for longer periods of time,” Lundberg said. “They’re going in the direction we want them to move to, but there are still lapses when they revert to earlier habits. We need to keep working to get to a higher level.”
Lovell beat Burns 56-43 Friday at the Lander Fieldhouse and fell to Torrington 60-45 and to Wheatland 56-33 Saturday at the Lander middle school gym.
The Bulldogs came out like gangbusters and outscored Burns 41-17 in the first half Friday, playing their best half of basketball in the young season.
“Against Burns we moved the ball much better, and our shots were uncontested for the most part,” Lundberg said. “We were able to get the ball inside to Aden (Mayes) and Jacob (Grant), which helped us quite a bit.
“Defensively, our intensity in the first half was pretty amazing. The kids communicated well and rotated well.”
Noting that Burns only scored 6 points in the first half against Lovell’s first unit, Lundberg added, “We’re starting to definitely see some rotations that will work defensively much better for us. And our offense was clicking.”
Lovell outscored Burns 20-4 in the first quarter and 21-13 in the second, though Burns came back to outscore the Bulldogs 16-8 in the third quarter and 10-7 in the fourth.
“We came out kind of flat (in the second half),” Lundberg said, “and they came out with much more energy. They were able to erase half of our lead. That was disappointing, but it was good to get the first win of the season.”
Sophomore guard Zeke Newman led the Bulldogs with 16 points, hitting five of 11 shots from the field including three of seven three-point attempts. He also grabbed nine rebounds and had four assists and five steals.
“Zeke played exceptionally well,” Lundberg said.
Grant added 10 points on five-of-seven shooting and blocked four shots. Brenden Lundberg and Mat Savage scored 8 points each, and Mayes snared eight rebounds, Lundberg five. Lundberg also swiped the ball five times.
Loss to Torrington
It was another tale of two halves in the Torrington game Saturday morning, but this time it was the Bulldogs who dug the first half hole, trailing the fifth-ranked Trailblazers 20-6 after the first quarter and 33-12 at halftime. Lovell came back to outscore Torrington 33-27 in the second half.
Lundberg said the shots simply wouldn’t fall as the Bulldogs shot 36 percent from the field – 18 of 50.
“We had lots of open looks, great looks at the basket, but we just couldn’t finish,” he said. “Even little drops inside and wide open looks outside (wouldn’t fall). They all looked like they were going in.”
Torrington had a guard – Malm – who “just ate us up,” Lundberg said, adding, “He was able to get into the paint and made every mid-range jump shot he took. Next time, maybe we should put someone longer and taller on him.”
Savage was the only player in double figures against Torrington, finishing with 10 points. CJ Pickett added 9 points, Brenden Lundberg 7, Newman and Mayes 6 each. Savage and Mayes led the squad with six rebounds each, and Newman had four assists.
Bulldogs and Bulldogs
Game three saw the Bulldogs struggle against the Wheatland Bulldogs in a 56-33 loss. Lovell was competitive in the first half, outscored 10-4 in the first quarter and 12-9 in the second to trail 22-13 at halftime, but instead of turning things around in the second half as they did earlier in the day, they were outscored 34-20 to fall by 23 points.
“It was not a good game all the way around,” Lundberg said. “Our energy was low. The intensity was not there. It was the most frustrating game of the weekend, because we felt we could compete and get a win. As coach, I wanted to see us go 2-1 instead of just the one win.
“We kind of went through the motions and everything was dead (in the first half). They had a nine-point lead while we were playing absolutely terrible, but (instead of fighting back) our third quarters haven’t been great for us.”
The Lovell squad shot just 28 percent from the field and didn’t have a single player score in double figures. CJ Pickett led the team with 6 points, and Savage added 5, Tyler Nichols, Newman and Grant 4 each. Grant led the team with 10 rebounds, and Brenden Lundberg snared eight.
The Bulldogs are off for the holidays and will resume play Saturday, Jan. 5, against the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies in Cowley. Game times are 4 p.m. (junior varsity), 5:30 (girls varsity) and 7 p.m.
Lovell will then participate in the Big Horn Basin Classic Jan. 11-12 in Worland and Thermopolis. Lovell plays in Thermop Friday.
The first home game of the season is Tuesday, Jan. 15, against Lander.
By David Peck