By: Shawn O’Brate
FREMONT COUNTY – This past weekend it seemed like there was a basketball game every few hours that people around Riverton, Lander and the rest of Fremont County would find interesting or find a team they root for playing in. But many of the basketball teams that fill Fremont County all participated in one of the biggest tournaments of the year, the Big Horn Basin Shootout Tournament.
The tournament was housed in four different locations, Powell and Cowley for the boys and Thermopolis and Worland for the girls, with teams from Lander, Wyoming Indian, Wind River and our neighbors up north, Thermopolis, taking part.
The first game for the Chiefs in the Big Horn Basin Shootout Tournament came against Thermopolis, a team that has had just as many ups and downs as the Chiefs have had all season.
Coach Craig Ferris’ Chiefs came out of the starting gates hot from three-point range, shooting four threes in the first half to help put them up over the Bobcats by a score of 43-16. They were causing turnovers, forcing Thermopolis to take bad shots, and blocking the inside of the lane really well which led to an easy win but also to some of their younger players coming in and making an impact in the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs would win their first game of the tournament by a score of 68-46 behind an extremely strong performance by senior point guard Jerrill Tillman with 25 points. In fact, a lot of Chiefs had strong games as senior Brandon Coffee had 17 points and freshman Cordell Spoonhunter had 10 points, both of them before the fourth quarter even began.
Their next opponent was Lander Valley (above) which did not go as well, ending in a 77-65 loss. In that game Coffee would score 15 points, Tillman would score a tournament-low eleven points, and freshman Parlayne Ferris would find eleven points after being brought in to drop threes in an attempt to come back. A fun fact from the game, Ferris also recorded a very rare six-point play which resulted in a few baffled looks from both sidelines.
Finally, on Saturday, the Chiefs played against Burlington who had just come off a beating by Powell where they lost by 26 points. The Chiefs looked to hand Burlington a similar loss but would have no such luck as the Huskies stayed with Wyoming Indian for much of the game, even leading them 15-9 at the end of the first quarter.
At halftime the score was all tied up after a strong surge by the Chiefs to end the second quarter, but the third and fourth quarter saw Burlington go to the charity stripe 17 times compared to the Chiefs’ eight attempts. All-in-all the Huskies were gifted with 25 free throw attempts to the Chiefs’ eleven, a disparity that continually stopped the Chiefs’ momentum and gave multiple Burlington players advantages over foul-troubled Wyoming Indian players.
In the end the Huskies would squeak out a six-point victory, 57-51, over the Chiefs, sending them home to Ethete with a 1-2 record on the weekend. The Chiefs now sit at 6-7 on the season, currently holding first place in the 2A Southwest thanks to their 1-0 conference record they earned over St. Stephens at the end of 2022.
The Cougars played in the Cowley bracket of the Big Horn Basin Shootout Tournament, looking to find the magic that would punch a ticket for them to travel to Powell Saturday afternoon for the championship game.
That magic would quickly be squandered on Friday’s first attempt as they went up against Lovell, a 3A school that entered the weeknd on a two-game win streak. The Cougars would actually start the game off rather strong, going up 13-8 in the first quarter, but the game would fall apart by the middle of the third quarter when they would grab the lead and never let go.
Wind River would fall 61-49 in their first game of the tournament.
Luckily for the Cougars their next game was against Riverside, a team that had only won one game by that point in the season which came way back in the second week of December.
Wind River would win this game easily, winning 60-34, which propelled the Cougars into one of the better matchups on Saturday afternoon. They would be faced with a familiar opponent, the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies, led by a slew of seniors.
The Grizzlies leadership would not mean much as Wind River’s Wylie Shearer and JayCee Herbert put on a shooting clinic. Even though the Cougars would not start off as well as they hoped, going down 16-10 at the end of one quarter, they would find their stroke and go up before halftime by a score of 29-27.
After halftime the game was neck-and-neck with Wind River scoring eleven points in the third and Rocky Mountain right behind them with ten. But, in the fourth quarter, some extra shots started falling for the Cougars with some solid looks inside the paint and some strong free throw shots making it to the bottom of the net.
Wind River would end up winning their third-and-final game on Saturday 57-49. The Cougars now sit at the bottom of the 2A Northwest conference, but not by much. The Cougars 5-6 record is only a half game behind Rocky Mountain (6-6), a full game behind Greybull (7-4) and two games behind Shoshoni (5-3).