Punchers battle through busy week
Robert Galbreath photos
WYOMING – Health restrictions eased in Fremont County and the Puncher girls’ basketball team got its second taste of conference play when they took on 2A Southwest Quadrant rival Wyoming Indian on Saturday, Feb. 6. Big Piney played a close first quarter, but a string of 3-pointers allowed Wyoming Indian to take the win, 48-33.
The conference game followed two intense games against Lyman and Mountain View.
The Punchers played one of their best games of the season on Feb. 2, falling to 3A powerhouse Lyman by a single possession, 57-55. Big Piney offense and defense clicked to put up a powerful resistance against the third-ranked 3A team in the state.
On Friday, Big Piney pulled out all the stops against the 2020 3A Regional Champion, Mountain View, that ended with the Buffalos up by only two possessions, 54-50.
“I was pretty excited for both games against Lyman and Mountain View,” said head coach Brian Espenscheid. “That’s as good as we’ve played against both teams in years. We nip and tucked it all the way. With Wyoming Indian, that was probably one game too many for the week and the girls were a little tired. Wyoming Indian was fresh and ready to play and got pretty hot from the three-point line. It was still the closest game we’ve had against them in years too, and next time, we’ll give them a better game.”
Both teams shot in 13 points during the first quarter. Lyman pulled ahead in the second quarter to take the lead, 29-21, at halftime.
The match was far from over for Big Piney, however, and the Punchers struck back in the third quarter, scoring 16 points while a relentless defense held the Eagles to six points.
Junior Sierra Keiter answered a four-point run by Lyman with a 2-pointer. Senior Ryker Goodman forced turnovers twice, catching two rebounds. Senior Cassidy Espenscheid made three free throws to put Big Piney in the lead.
Junior Ceci Sambrano grabbed a steal and Keiter snatched a rebound to put Espenscheid in position to make another 3-pointer.
Big Piney entered the final quarter ahead, 37-35.
Espenscheid, Goodman and senior Jakobi Hibbert kept the heat on defense, forcing turnover after turnover. Two free throws by junior Hanna Hansen maintained Big Piney’s lead.
Lyman edged ahead until Goodman caught a steal, allowing Keiter to breakaway with an underhanded layup, tying the game, 42-42.
Hibbert took her turn in the paint, tossing in a 2-pointer. Lyman scored on the next three possessions. Junior Lena Hatch tossed in a 3-pointer, closing the deficit to two points.
Sambrano and Espenscheid both made 3-pointers to keep the game close.
Espenscheid finished the match with 19 points. Sambrano played 10 points, Goodman eight, Hansen six, Hibbert five, Keiter four and Hatch three.
The first quarter opened neck-and-neck, with Mountain View scoring 15 points to 13 by Big Piney. Espenscheid and Hibbert made use of the free-throw line while Goodman, Sambrano, Hansen and Hatch each added a 2-pointer.
Mountain View dominated the second and third quarter to take the lead by nine points going into the fourth. Determined not to let the Buffalos off easy, the Punchers fired back and outscored their opponent, 16-11, in the final eight minutes. Hansen played one of her best quarters of the season, scoring four 2-pointers and shooting in a deep, buzzer beating 3-pointer right as the buzzer sounded.
Hansen led in scoring against Mountain View with 17 points. Espenscheid tossed in 11 points, Hibbert 10, Goodman seven, Hatch three and Sambrano two.
Big Piney kept the momentum going offensively in the first half. Sambrano tied the game in quarter one after stealing the ball and making a layup. Hansen, Keiter, Sambrano and Espenscheid kept Big Piney on the scoreboard in the second quarter.
Wyoming Indian led at halftime, 24-18.
Wyoming Indian offense surged ahead in the third quarter, pummeling away with 3-pointers. The Punchers played a close fourth quarter, scoring 10 points to 11 from Wyoming Indian.
Hansen and Goodman both scored eight points. Espenscheid made six points, Hibbert five, Sambrano four and Keiter two.