BURNS – If Friday night’s tilt between Pine Bluffs and Wheatland were scripted for theaters, consider it a trilogy.
Pine Bluffs – the No. 1-ranked team in Class 2A – was hot from the perimeter early, struggled in the middle quarters a bit and rebounded late to outlast Wheatland 53-50 at the Burns Winter Classic.
“We just stayed consistent with what we do,” Hornets coach Tyler Kimzey said. “If it means we’re going to lose, then we’re going to go down swinging with how we like to play.”
Justus Golding was in a groove early on, finding open spaces beyond the arc and taking every open look he got. His 3-pointer 28 seconds in put the Hornets in the driver’s seat. Michael Shain followed suit 32 seconds later with a 3 of his own. Together, the junior duo sprung Pine Bluffs (3-0) to a 9-2 lead midway through the first quarter.
“They were leaving me open and weren’t putting a hand in my face, so I just let it go,” said Golding, who finished with 12 points, all coming from beyond the arc. “I practice a lot of 3s at practice, so that’s what I’ve got to do.”
Shain drained a 13-foot jumper with 40 seconds left in the quarter to put the Hornets on top 16-4.
Pine Bluffs carried that lead into the second quarter, but momentum changed quickly. Pine Bluffs senior Tucker Norman got into foul trouble and the Bulldogs raced out to a 10-0 run to pull within 16-15 with 5 minutes, 36 seconds remaining in the half.
What once was a 12-point lead for Pine Bluffs turned into a 23-23 deadlock at the intermission.
“Shots weren’t really falling,” Kimzey said. “(Norman) was in foul trouble, and that really changes what we are able to do, especially without (Norman) on the floor.”
Golding continued to have the hot hand in the third quarter. His third 3 of the afternoon pushed the Hornets ahead 26-25. Norman, doing his best to stay out of foul trouble, added a layup to give his team some breathing room and a 28-25 edge. He eventually fouled out with 3:13 left in regulation.
A handful of turnovers led to some quick transition points, and suddenly the Hornets saw their lead grow to seven at 34-27 with just over 3 minutes to play in the third frame.
Shain, who led all scorers with 23 points, scored six during the third quarter, including making all three of his free-throw attempts.
“I was just confident in my shot and when I went to the free-throw line,’ said Shain, who was 10 of 12 from the line.
Pine Bluffs took a 40-33 advantage into the fourth quarter, but back came the Bulldogs with some late momentum. A pair of 3s from Kobey Preuit and Luke Anderson less than a minute apart cut the deficit to 44-41.
Class 3A Wheatland came within two points but no closer as the Hornets held on, thanks to some late-game defense.
“With (Norman) not playing (much), we had to persevere through that and make sure we played hard defense,” Golding said. “(We) just kept playing tough. The offensive side’s how much you win by, but the defense is what makes up for it.”
PINE BLUFFS 53, WHEATLAND 50
Pine Bluffs…...................................… 16 7 17 13 – 53
Wheatland…........................................ 4 19 10 17 – 50
Pine Bluffs: Shain 23, A. Fornstrom 8, Golding 12, Lamb 2, Steger 4, Jeffres 0, Thompson 0, Norman 4.
Wheatland: Anderson 17, Jones 2, Pollock 5, Preuit 5, Pearson 8, Iacovetto 5, Garcia 7.
Pine Bluffs 84, Moorcroft 25
BURNS – Norman paced the Pine Bluffs boys basketball team to an 84-25 rout over Moorcroft on Friday morning at the Burns Winter Classic.
The 6-foot-4 senior scored a team-high 24 points and shot 11 of 12 from the floor. Shain tallied 15 points, while senior Andrew Fornstrom finished with 14. Junior Brian Steger ended with 10 points.
Pine Bluffs 65, Wyo. Indian 49
BURNS – Shain and Norman combined for 47 points as Pine Bluffs cruised to a 65-49 win over Wyoming Indian on Thursday night at the Burns Winter Classic.
Shain posted a team-high 24 points and shot 8 of 12 from the field in the win. Norman ended with 23 points on 10 of 11 shooting from the floor.
The game ended after the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s deadline Thursday night, which is why it’s appearing in today’s newspaper.
Tyler Poslosky is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached at 307-633-3123 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TylerPoslosky.