Second-half fireworks lead to Puncher victory
BIG PINEY – St. Stephens threatened to overtake the Big Piney Puncher boys’ basketball team during the second quarter of the Feb. 10 conference game at the Puncher Gym.
St. Stephens then found itself in foul trouble late in the second quarter. Big Piney took full advantage of the opportunity at the charity stripe to widen its lead, 42-34, at halftime.
A coordinated Puncher offense and defense controlled the court during a ferocious second half that saw Big Piney outscore St. Stephens, 48-34.
Refusing to look back, Big Piney went on to score a significant 90-68 conference win.
Returning to the home court on Saturday, Feb. 11, the Punchers battled 2A Southwest Quadrant rival Wyoming Indian High School (WIHS) through a point-for-point first half. WIHS led by a single possession, 31-29, when the halftime buzzer sounded.
WIHS turned up the intensity in the third quarter. The Punchers outscored their opponent in the final 8 minutes of regulation, though came up several possessions short of overtaking WIHS.
The final scoreboard favored WIHS, 71-65.
“I think we were pretty pleased with our effort in both games,” said Head Coach Nate Strong. “I think in the loss (against WIHS), we saw the advantage of having a little more structure on offense. I thought we struggled to get into any consistent rhythm. Offense is always the best defense, and we can certainly improve in this area.”
Big Piney stormed the court in the first quarter, overwhelming St. Stephens, 24-13. Senior Jovany Munoz opened scoring with a pair of free throws. Sophomore Kelby Staley netted a layup.
Fellow sophomore Bill Hibbert converted an and-1 and netted 2 points from the charity stripe. Munoz followed up with a pair of layups.
Sophomore Cole Walton grabbed a steal, setting Hibbert up to sink a jumper. Munoz tossed in an outside shot. Hibbert netted 4 points from inside the perimeter. Sophomore Ashton Bennett scored a close-range shot.
St. Stephens edged up in the second quarter, nearly tying the game at 32 points. Bennett, Munoz, Hibbert and sophomore Cael Espenscheid all scored from the free-throw line, widening Big Piney’s lead.
The halftime score favored the Punchers, 42-34.
Leaving it all on the court in an explosive third quarter, Big Piney outscored St. Stephens, 25-16. Munoz sunk an outside shot. Stoutenburg netted an inside shot. Staley made a layup and Walton broke through the perimeter to score.
Munoz scored a layup. Staley snatched a steal, allowing Stoutenburg to convert an and-1. Hibbert tossed in a 3-pointer. Stoutenburg made a reverse layup and Hibbert scored a jumper. Staley netted a close-range shot and Bennett scored a pair of free throws.
Big Piney handily won the fourth quarter, 23-18. Munoz and Stoutenburg controlled the scoreboard. Freshman Hays Espenscheid entered the fray and scored a jumper.
Munoz led Big Piney in scoring against St. Stephens with an impressive 33 points. Hibbert netted 17 points, Stoutenburg 14, Staley and Bennett 8 apiece, Cael Espenscheid 6 and 2 each from Walton and Hays Espenscheid.
WIHS led by two possessions when the first quarter ended, 15-11. Stoutenburg opened the quarter with a 3-pointer. Munoz converted an and-1 twice.
Chipping away at WIHS in the second quarter, Big Piney threatened to take the initiative. A 3-pointer by Stoutenburg narrowed the deficit to a single possession, 18-16.
Munoz scored from the charity stripe and the Punchers trailed by a single point, 20-19. Walton found an opening in the perimeter to score, pulling Big Piney ahead, 22-20.
Cael Espenscheid sunk an inside shot and Stoutenburg netted a 3-pointer and two free throws, briefly tying the game, 29-29.
WIHS edged up in the third quarter, outpacing Big Piney, 25-17. The Punchers answered back in the fourth quarter, scoring 19 points and holding WIHS to 15. Hibbert tossed in 10 points, including a pair of outside shots.
Hibbert led Big Piney in scoring against WIHS with 22 points. Stoutenburg tallied 20 points, Munoz 12, Cael Espenscheid 9 and Walton 2.
The Punchers travel to play cross-county rival Pinedale on Thursday, Feb. 16. Boys’ varsity plays at 7 p.m. Big Piney hits the road again to play Kemmerer on Friday, Feb. 17.
“We look forward to the last week of the regular season as we prepare for Pinedale and Kemmerer,” said Coach Strong.