Punchers start conference slate with win

BIG PINEY – The Big Piney boys’ basketball team hit the court full throttle against 2A rival St. Stephens on Saturday, Jan. 14, opening conference play with a decisive 71-60 victory on home court.

“We’re headed in the right direction,” said head coach Nate Strong.

Following a tight first quarter, Big Piney mounted an explosive 25-point offense while a coordinated defense guarded the perimeter.

At halftime, the Punchers were ahead by 16 points. The commanding lead boosted the team through a point-for-point third quarter and set Big Piney up for success in the fourth quarter.

“We improved our defensive intensity and followed the game plan pretty well,” said coach Strong. “We played a solid offense in the first half and built up a decent lead for the remainder of the game.”

The first quarter began with St. Stephens in possession. Big Piney senior Jade Espenscheid snatched a steal and moved the ball down the court.

Senior Koy Walton wedged through St. Stephens’ perimeter to score. Senior Ethan Whiterock widened the Punchers’ lead with a deep 3-pointer.

St. Stephens crept up on the scoreboard before Espenscheid converted an and-1. Senior Jaspur Brower sunk a basket inside the perimeter, placing Big Piney in the lead, 10-9.

Walton grabbed a steal and made a fastbreak bucket.

Espenscheid closed the quarter out with a close-range shot.

Big Piney finished the first quarter ahead, 16-12.

Hitting the court fast and furious in the second quarter, the Punchers outscored St. Stephens, 25-13.

Defensive pressure by Munoz forced a turnover, setting senior Caleb Strong up to score a 3-pointer.

Catching a pass, sophomore Reuben Stoutenburg tossed in a 3-pointer. He made a fastbreak and scored a layup. A pair of free throws by Strong put Big Piney ahead by 10 points.

Drawing a technical foul, Whiterock made good on a trio of free throws. Walton and Reuben Stoutenburg went on a six-point scoring streak.

Brower topped the quarter off with a jumper.

Big Piney hit the locker room at halftime with a 41-25 lead.

St. Stephens fought to close the gap in the third quarter, outscoring the Punchers by a point, 15-14. A pair of 3-pointers by Whiterock maintained Big Piney’s momentum.

Walton converted an and-1 and Espenscheid scored a 3-pointer and a close-range shot.

The Punchers pulled ahead, 55-40, at the end of the third quarter.

Big Piney scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and the Puncher defense held St. Stephens to 10.

Taking possession, Reuben Stoutenburg moved down the court and scored a 3-pointer. Munoz pulled off a steal and sent the ball to senior Seth Stoutenburg for a jump shot.

Defensive pressure by Whiterock forced a turnover. Seth Stoutenburg followed up with a layup.

Reuben Stoutenburg pressed through St. Stephens’ defense to score a basket. Walton, Seth Stoutenburg and Whiterock capped the quarter off with points at the charity line.

Four Punchers scored double digits. Whiterock led in scoring with 16 points. Espenscheid and Reuben Stoutenburg tossed in 12 points apiece, while Walton scored 11.

Strong and Seth Stoutenburg each tossed in six points, while Brower and Munoz rounded the scoreboard out with four points apiece.

Conference play continues this weekend with Big Piney hosting Wyoming Indian on Friday and traveling to Shoshoni Saturday.

“We’ll keep focusing on the process and complimenting the team on what they did well, like their defensive intensity,” said coach Strong. “It will be nice to get more games and opportunity on the floor.”