Late FTs seal win for boys

Nathan Oster

Coby Henderson and Carlos Rodriguez came up big when it mattered most, sinking 7-of-8 free throws in the final minute to lift the Greybull Buffs to a 52-46 win over Shoshoni Friday in a matchup of Class 2A Northwest Conference frontrunners.
The victory gave the Buffs a 3-0 record in league play and put them in prime position to earn a top seed for the regional tournament later this month in Riverton.
But it didn’t come easy.  Greybull led 28-20 at the half and 39-36 after three, but the Wranglers rallied in the final frame, and with a minute to play and the score knotted at 45, the outcome of the most important game of the season to date hung in the balance.
From that point forward, Greybull outscored Shoshoni 7-1.
“It was definitely a game won and lost at the free-throw line,” said Coach Logan Burningham.  His team struggled most of the night, connecting on just 2-of-14 prior to the 7-of-8 closeout, and finished at 41%. But Shoshoni was even worse, hitting just 18% of its tries from the stripe.
Rodriguez paced the Buffs with 24 points, but Burningham said one of the key stretches of the game came when the talented senior was forced to the bench in the second half.  Other players stepped up — none more so than Henderson, who finished with 19.
The back muscle strain that hampered Rodriguez against Shoshoni forced him to the bench for Saturday’s non-conference matchup with Tongue River. The No. 2-ranked Eagles pasted the Buffs 53-24 at the Foothills Classic, and with Rodriguez sidelined, probably expected to do the same in the rematch.
Nobody informed the Buffs.  Led once again by Henderson, they played inspired ball in the first half and trailed by just eight, 34-26, at the break.  But Tongue River pulled away, outscoring the Buffs 15-6 in the third and 11-10 in the fourth to earn the 60-42 win.
Burningham credited the Eagles for a shift in their defensive strategy to “face-guarding” Henderson in the second half.  While most of his points came early, the senior still finished with 18 to pace the Buffs.  Isaac Vigil and Caden Hunt followed with eight and six, respectively.
“The last couple of weeks, Coby’s shots really started to come — and he’s getting his looks within the offense,” said Burningham. “He played really well all weekend for us. But to beat a team like Tongue River, you need six or seven playing at a high level.  
“Their size in height was a real problem for us  — I think they outrebounded us by about 20.”
This week
The Buffs get a slight break in the schedule this week, with just a single game on tap today (Thursday, Feb. 1) in Basin against the Riverside Rebels.  The longtime rivals play in different classifications, as the Rebels are now a 1A program.  None of that will matter when the game tips off around 7 p.m.
“They’re playing well — they’re just having a hard time putting an entire game together,” said Burningham. “We have to be ready to play.  If we come out and just go through the motions, we could get beat.  Especially over there, where we never seem to play very well.”
Burningham said he expects Rodriguez to be in the starting lineup.  The senior is dealing with strained muscles in his back — nothing structural.  But it’s also getting late in the season, and Burningham acknowledged Rodriguez may need to deal with some pain the rest of the way.  
“I like our 3-0 start (in the conference), but still feel like all the teams in our conference are pretty equal, so it’s going to be about finishing the second half of the season well and getting everyone healthy for the regional tournament.”

Shoshoni        14   6 16 10 — 46
Greybull        12 16 11 13 — 52
GREYBULL — Caden Hunt 1-5 0-0 2, Juan Acuna 0-1 1-2 1, Coby Henderson 5-14 5-6 19, Isaac Vigil 2-5 0-3 4, Yandel Hernandez 1-5 0-4 2, Carlos Rodriguez 10-14 3-7 24.  Totals 19-of-44 9-of-22 52.
3-POINT GOALS — Henderson 4, Rodriguez.  REBOUNDS — Greybull 26 (Rodriguez 7).  STEALS — Greybull 13 (Rodriguez, Acuna 3).  ASSISTS — Greybull 8 (Acuna, Henderson 2).  TURNOVERS — Greybull 12.

Tongue R        16 18 15 11 — 60
Greybull        13 13   6 10 — 42
GREYBULL — Hunt 3-8 0-1 6, Brandon Burns 1-2 0-0 3, Acuna 1-4 0-0 2, Henderson 6-11 1-1 18, Larry Longshore 0-2 0-0 0, Vigil 3-10 1-1 8, Christian Nelson 1-2 0-0 2, Hernandez 1-2 1-2 3.  Totals 16-of-42 3-of-5 42.
3-POINT GOALS — Henderson 5, Burns, Vigil.  REBOUNDS — Greybull 18 (Vigil 5).  STEALS — Greybull 4.  ASSISTS — Greybull 8 (Lucas Bolzer, Acuna 2).  TURNOVERS — Greybull 10.