RAWLINS – The Big Piney High School Punchers boys’ basketball team found itself vying against larger, 3A, non-conference opponents at the Rawlins Winter Classic Tournament on Jan. 6-7.
The action commenced with Big Piney playing its cross-county rival, the Pinedale Wranglers, on Friday. Pinedale overpowered Big Piney in the first half. While the Punchers rallied in a strong second half, they came up short and fell, 82-58.
Regrouping on Saturday morning, Big Piney played a close game against Mountain View. The Punchers broke an 8-8 tie in the first quarter to pull ahead, 24-20, at halftime.
Mountain View turned the tables in the second half, although the game remained within several possessions until the end of the fourth quarter when the Buffaloes expanded their lead for the win, 52-41.
Big Piney fell to Buffalo, 60-50, in a nailbiter on Saturday afternoon.
“We played good, solid 3A teams and at times we were very competitive with these larger schools,” said Head Coach Nate Strong. “I think we played really hard, but need to create better defensive habits and make shots when open. I do believe these types of games make us better and hope to see the results later on in the season due to the tough competition played early. It’s been a really fun group to coach and they really want to win.”
The Pinedale Wranglers struck with intensity in the first half to establish a significant lead, 50-25, when the halftime buzzer sounded.
Refusing to throw in the towel, Big Piney matched Pinedale in scoring, 21-21, in the third quarter.
Sophomore Bill Hibbert opened the third quarter with a layup. Junior Reuben Stoutenburg sunk a deep 3-pointer. Sophomore Ashton Bennett scored a jumper.
Senior Jovany Munoz converted an and-1. Stoutenburg tossed in a second 3-pointer. Sophomore Kelby Staley followed with a layup.
Munoz went on a 4-point run. Hibbert snatched a steal and sophomore Cole Walton broke into the paint to score a layup.
Big Piney outscored the Wranglers, 12-11, in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Cael Espenscheid netted a close-range shot and two free throws. Munoz and Stoutenburg both sunk layups. Hibbert found an opening in the Wrangler defense to score. Staley rounded out scoring with a layup.
Munoz led Big Piney in scoring against Pinedale with 13 points. Stoutenburg scored 12 points, Walton and Bennett 8 apiece, Espenscheid 7, Hibbert 6 and Staley 4.
The first quarter ended in an 8-8 stalemate. Munoz commenced scoring with a layup. Stoutenburg scored a pair of baskets from the charity stripe. Hibbert netted two jumpers.
A powerful Big Piney offense outmaneuvered Mountain View in the second quarter, scoring 16 points while its defense held the Buffaloes to 12 points.
Munoz netted a close-range shot. Staley went on a 4-point run, pulling Big Piney ahead, 14-12. Munoz netted a layup followed by a jumper, placing the Punchers in the lead, 18-15.
Espenscheid rustled up a steal. Mountain View edged ahead until a close-range shot by Munoz tied the game, 20-20.
Staley sunk a layup and Hibbert grabbed a steal. Espenscheid scored from inside the paint.
Mountain View outscored Big Piney, 15-5, in the third quarter. A jumper by Stoutenburg and 3-pointer from Munoz closed Mountain View’s lead to within several possessions, 35-29, when the fourth quarter began.
Big Piney kept close on the Buffaloes’ heels in the fourth quarter. Hibbert netted a free throw. Stoutenburg tossed in a 3-pointer. Hibbert nabbed a steal. Espenscheid scored 2 points from the charity stripe.
Stoutenburg sunk a 3-pointer and Munoz followed with an outside shot.
Munoz led Big Piney in scoring against Mountain View with 16 points. Stoutenburg netted 10, Staley 6, Hibbert 5 and Espenscheid 4.
The Punchers host Kemmerer for their first home game on Friday, Jan. 13. Junior varsity play at 4 p.m., followed by girls’ varsity at 5:30 p.m. and boys’ varsity at 7 p.m.
“We look forward to getting back in the gym this week and trying to improve and prepare for our first conference game of the season,” said Coach Strong.