Grizzlies head into the break with a sweep

The Rocky Mountain Grizzlies appear to be hitting their stride. After starting the season a respectable 3-3 while playing in tournaments in Glenrock and Shoshoni, the Grizz powered past the Shoshoni Wranglers 60-28 in their home opener Thursday night, then knocked off the Wind River Cougars Friday in Pavillion, 67-56.

“We’re starting to gel, and our kids are starting to see each other’s strengths and weaknesses and getting to know their roles,” coach Pat Winland said. “Ethan (Price) is starting to let the game come to him. I think he’s realizing how much help he really has.

Rocky sophomore Zach Simmons drives to the basket during the Grizzlies’ 60-28 win over Shoshoni Thursday in Cowley as a Wrangler defender tries to block the shot.
David Peck photo

“In order for us to be competitive in 2A, we have to have an inside-outside presence. If we get one-dimensional, we get in trouble.”

The Grizz jumped on Shoshoni early 7-0 and never trailed Thursday night at the RMHS Gym as Taylor Winland hit one of two at the foul line, Jess Wambeke converted a steal, Winland hit a follow shot and Zach Simmons scored on a fast break.

After Wade Cornell drained a three-pointer to get the Wranglers on the scoreboard, Rocky reeled off eight straight points, six by Ethan Price, to lead 15-3, and the Grizz went on to lead 17-6 at the quarter break. An aggressive Rocky Mountain defense forced nine turnovers in the quarter.

“We just imposed our will on them and were able to practice our press for further opportunities down the road,” Winland noted.

The second period was nearly a repeat as the Grizz forced nine more turnovers and scored the first eight points of the quarter to lead 25-6. Wambeke ignited the spurt with a trey from the corner. Rocky went on to lead 31-12 at halftime.

The Grizz put the game away in the third quarter, outscoring Shoshoni 16-5 for a 47-17 lead as Wambeke scored 5 points, Taylor Winland and Price 4 each.

Coach Winland cleared his bench in the fourth quarter, but the Grizz still outscored Shoshoni 13-11 to win by 32 points, 60-28. Dawson May scored 6 points in the quarter for the Grizz.

“It was good to finally get home and play in front of our families and those visiting from out of town,” Winland noted.

Price led the Grizzlies with 15 points, hitting nine of 10 shots at the foul line, and Winland and Wambeke joined him in double figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively. May added 7. Winland hit six of seven shots from the field and led the team with seven rebounds. Tyler Banks had four steals, and Price and Talon Grant had three assists each.

Though they hit only 10 percent from three-point range, they shot 57 percent inside the arc.

SHOSHONI (28)
Jace Leclair 0 0-0 0, Kaden Sanderson 5 3-3 14, Wade Cornell 3 1-1 7, Kaden Murphy 2 0-0 4, Nathan Cousineau 0 0-1 0, Justin Lajeunesse 1 0-0 2, Cameron Griffin 0 0-0 0, Elijah Schubach 0 1-2 1. Totals 11 5-7 28.
ROCKY MTN. (60)
Ethan Price 3 9-10 15, Talon Grant 1 0-0 2, Dominic Estes 1 0-0 2, Trevor Jewell 0 0-0 0, Jess Wambeke 4 0-0 10, Dawson May 3 1-2 7, Taylor Winland 6 1-3 13, Tyler Banks 2 0-0 4, Zach Simmons 1 2-2 4, Zane Horrocks 1 0-1 2, Branson Robison 0 1-2 1. Totals 22 14-20 60.
Shoshoni   6      6      5    11 – 28
Rocky Mtn. 17    14    16   13 – 60
Three-point field goals – Sanderson 1; Wambeke 2. Fouled out – Leclair, Cornell. Total fouls – Shoshoni 21, Rocky 14.
Big win

The Grizzlies won a barn-burner in Pavillion Friday as Ethan Price lit up the scoreboard for 31 points including two slam dunks. He also hit six of 13 shots from downtown for a strong inside-outside game.

Rocky sophomore Jess Wambeke drives the lane for a layup during the Grizzlies’ win over the Shoshoni Wranglers Thursday in Cowley.
David Peck photo

Winland said the Grizz trailed 9-2 early but rallied to close the gap to four points, 13-9, after one. Wind River built a 25-18 lead midway through the second quarters, but Rocky went on a 12-1 run as Price hit a trey, Banks scored a layup, Price converted a steal into a dunk, Taylor Winland hit two free throws and Zach Simmons drained a three-pointer. Rocky led 30-36 until Wind River cashed a trey at the halftime buzzer.

“The kids finally realized we could play with these guys, which I knew the whole time,” Winland said. “It was just a matter of a young group realizing their potential.”

Rocky led 47-44 after three quarters and pulled away in the fourth, 20-12, to win by 11.

“We led 52-46 a couple of minutes into the third, then increased the lead to 63-50, Winland said. “Ethan capped it off with his second dunk to break the press on a pass from Tyler Banks.

“Our same rule applies. I told them to enjoy it for 24 hours and get back to work next week. It was a good learning experience to play a game with a regional tournament atmosphere.”

After Price’s 31 points, Simmons scored 14 points, Taylor Winland 8 and Banks 7. The Grizz shot 51 percent from the field, knocking down 10 of 20 three-point attempts.

“It’s a credit to Ethan and his teammates for the team victory. Of his 31 points, 31 were on assists from his teammates, including catch-and-shoot baskets,” Winland noted. “Zach and Jess had key three-pointers to keep the momentum going in the fourth quarter.”

Taylor Winland led the team with nine rebounds, and Price grabbed six boards, Wambeke five. Wambeke had five assists, Winland four.

ROCKY (67)
Ethan Price 11 3-4 31, Jess Wambeke 1 1-4 4, Taylor Winland 3 2-2 8, Tyler Banks 2 3-6 7, Zach Simmons 5 1-2 14, Zane Horrocks 1 1-4 3, Branson Robison 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 11-22 67.
WIND RIVER (56)
M. Miller 2 1-2 5, A. Addison 2 0-0 5, J. Guina 1 0-0 2, N. Burnett 5 0-0 10, J. Guina 2-3 9, D. Burnett 1 0-0 3, J. Martinez 1 0-0 2, K. Vogel 4 2-2 10, M. Anderson 5 0-0 10. Totals 24 5-7 56.
Rocky Mtn.   9    21    17    20 – 67
Wind River 13    16    15    12 – 56
Three-point field goals – Price 6, Simmons 3, Wambeke 1; Addison 1, J. Guina 1, D. Burnett 1. Fouled out – none. Total fouls – Rocky 10, Wind River 23.

Powell and Lovell

The Grizz will return after the holidays to travel to Park County for a matchup against the Class 3A Powell Panthers on Friday, Jan. 4, followed by a home date against the Lovell Bulldogs on Saturday, Jan. 5.

“We open up with Powell, who we don’t match up well with. They’re big and senior-led,” Winland said. “Lovell is always going to be a battle.”

By David Peck