Buffs come up shot in bid for consolation crown

Nathan Oster

The only thing missing was a trophy.   The Greybull Buffs wrapped up the season last weekend in Casper, going 1-2 and finishing sixth at the State 2A Basketball Championships in Casper.  They finished 13-13. Their lone win, a 54-49 victory over Shoshoni, was their first in Casper since 2016, when they placed third in Jim Prather's final season.

"Making it to state was a good accomplishment," said Coach Logan Burningham. "We wanted to come back with a trophy or a plaque and were hoping for a couple more wins, but at the same time, I'm very proud of what the kids accomplished and how hard they fought.

"In the end, the experience, the enjoyment and the time the kids had together is what they'll remember for the rest of their lives."

The win over Shoshoni was bookended by an opening-round 50-35 loss to Big Horn on Thursday and a 71-63 loss to Wright in the consolation title game Saturday afternoon.   The power in 2A lied in the East this year, as its four qualifiers claimed the top four places. Teams from the 2A West went a combined 2-8, with Wind River and Greybull notching the only wins.

The Buffs played as well as anyone from the West, giving Big Horn fits for three-plus quarters before fading late.  With five minutes to go, just two points separated the teams.  A late spurt propelled the Rams into the semis.  

Cale Wright was the only Buff in double figures, finishing with 15 points. But even with Big Horn's 6-7 center Toby Schons sitting out the second half due to a knee injury, it wasn't enough as Greybull hit just 24% from the field (12-of-49), went 5-of-13 from the line, had 28 turnovers and were beaten 43-28 on the glass.

"We dug ourselves too deep a hole early on and appeared to use all of our energy and effort just getting it back within two," said Burningham.  "Even with the big kid sidelined, that's one heck of a team.  They beat Tongue River the next night with him nowhere close to full strength."

Friday was a better day for the Buffs, who won a loser-out game with the Wranglers.  It was their third matchup of the season. The Buffs got it done by shooting better (39.6%), dominating the glass (37-28 edge in rebounding), connecting on 10-of-13 from the stripe and committing just 12 turnovers.

Rodriguez led with 14 points while Cade Cooper chipped in 13 and a team-high nine boards and Wright added 10.

"I was proud of how our kids battled," said Burningham. "We can credit this win to our posts — Cade and Beto (Diaz-Rios).  They got big offensive rebound putbacks, especially late."

The Buffs ran out of steam in the consolation title game.  "We played pretty well overall and when he first half ended, we were up two," said Burningham. "But in the third, we didn't play as well as we needed to. We came out a little flat. Give Wright credit for hitting some big shots and making extra-effort plays.  We made a run in the fourth, but just couldn't get over the top."

Rodriguez and Coby Henderson provided most of the scoring punch, finishing with 22 and 21, respectively.  Rodriguez added 11 boards and Cooper nine.  

Continuing the pattern, Greybull shot 37.9% from the field against Wright.  In none of the three games in Casper did the Buffs match the 42% field goal shooting figure they averaged during regular season play.

"A lot of it, I think, was our lack of experience at state," Burningham said. "When you get there, you realize it's a different breed. A lot of stress and high intensity.  For some, it takes a game or two to get used to it. At one point, I mentioned to James (Armel) that the teams that have experience always do best here."

The loss brought the curtain down on the careers of seniors Wright, Cooper, Diaz-Rios and Aiden Reece.

"It sucks to lose a group like them," Burningham said. "They were part of two winning seasons and made it to state two of the last three years. What they've done for underclassmen hasn't gone unnoticed either. They've been good role models ... as players, they've all come a long way.  I wish we could have gotten a trophy to bring back, but they'll be remembered as a great group of kids."

Looking ahead, the Buffs figure to return two starters in Henderson and Rodriguez, as well as a top reserve in Juan Acuna.  There's talent in the pipeline, but Burningham said players can't wait until practice starts to pick up a basketball.

"Our success next year is going to be about the development that occurs over the summer," he said. "Hopefully we can get kids to a lot of camps and summer workouts. Everyone needs to show up for everything. That's how we get back to state."


Greybull     11 5 11 8 — 35

Big Horn     18 6 7 19 — 50

GREYBULL — Coby Henderson 2-9 3-4 8, Aiden Reece 1-7 0-0 3, Cade Cooper 0-5 0-0 0, Cale Wright 6-19 0-2 15, Carlos Rodriguez 2-6 0-2 5, Beto Diaz-Rios 1-3 2-2 4.  Totals 12-49 5-13 35.

3-POINT GOALS — Wright 3, Henderson, Reece.  REBOUNDS — Greybull 28 (Reece 6).  STEALS — Greybull 7 (Rodriguez 3).  ASSISTS — Greybull 2.  TURNOVERS – Greybull 8.

Greybull      16 12 12 14 — 54

Shoshoni       7 15 14 13 — 49

GREYBULL — Coby Henderson 2-9 1-2 5, Juan Acuna 0-2 0-0 0, Aiden Reece 3-7 0-0 6, Cade Cooper 6-7 1-3 13, Cale Wright 3-12 2-2 10, Carlos Rodriguez 4-12 6-6 14, Beto Diaz-Rios 3-4 0-0 6.  Totals 21-53 10-13 54.

3-POINT GOALS — Wright 2.  REBOUNDS — Greybull 37 (Rodriguez 7).  STEALS — Greybull 9 (Reece 4). ASSISTS — Greybull 8 (Reece, Wright 3).  TURNOVERS — Greybull 12. 

Wright       18 20 15 18 — 71

Greybull     20 20   7 16 — 63

GREYBULL — Lucas Bolzer 0-1 0-0 0, Coby Henderson 8-18 1-2 21, Aiden Reece 1-5 0-0 2, Cade Cooper 4-7 0-1 8, Cale Wright 2-15 3-3 7, Carlos Rodriguez 9-15 4-5 22, Isaak Gaytan 0-2 0-0 0, Beto Diaz-Rios 1-3 1-1 3.  Totals 25-of-56 (FGs) 9-of-12 (FTs) 63.

3-POINT GOALS — Henderson 4.  REBOUNDS ­— Greybull 39 (Rodriguez 11).  STEALS — Greybull 9 (Rodriguez 4).  ASSISTS — Greybull 6 (Rodriguez 2).  TURNOVERS — Greybull 9.