DAYTON — Big Horn head coach Ryan Alley admitted the Rams’ difficulties traveling to rival Tongue River. Even when the Rams went undefeated in 2010-11 on their way to the state title, they only beat the Eagles by 8 in Dayton.
The Tongue River boys basketball team has always given Big Horn fits on its home floor.
That wasn’t the case Friday.
The Big Horn boys came out firing and never looked back, snatching a 73-42 victory over their rival to remain undefeated in the conference. The Rams moved to 15-2 (7-0 in 2A Northeast), while the Eagles dropped to 8-9 (3-4).
“That’s what we talked about before the game — we’ve got to take it to them,” Alley said. “(Tongue River), even though they’ve lost three, they’re athletic and dangerous enough that if we give them momentum early, they can build on that. We wanted to take that away”
When the Eagles made the trip to Big Horn last month, the Rams jumped to a quick 13-3 lead, but Tongue River was able to absorb the blow and put together a run of its own to close the quarter. The two sides traded punches before Big Horn snatched a 14-point victory.
The blows were much more devastating Friday.
The Rams opened the game on a 9-0 run, mainly via pressure defense that led to Tongue River turnovers and easy Big Horn baskets. Brennan Kutterer eventually got Tongue River on the board with a layup nearly two minutes into the game, but Big Horn answered with another 9-3 run.
Big Horn led 26-10 after the first quarter, and the rout was on.
The Rams scored in bunches, and although they never matched their 26-point first quarter outburst, they continued to stretch the lead and keep the Eagles on the chase.
Big Horn took a 35-15 lead three minutes into the second quarter, and the lead never dipped below 20 the rest of the night. It stretched as high as 30 on a Colton Bates floater at the end of the third quarter.
“We’ve talked about all year, playing 32 minutes,” Alley said. “No matter what the situation is, we’ve got to play 32 minutes. I thought we got a little sloppy in the third quarter. But we refocused and took care of some things.”
The energy and focus for the Rams was missing from the Tongue River sideline. After Big Horn jumped out of the gate with pressure, it had the Eagles rattled. Stolen passes turned into forced passes and dropped passes, which led to sunken heads and frustration.
The intensity the Eagles needed to match with their rival seemed to drop in the wrong direction as the evening progressed.
“We just have to come out with energy of our own,” Tongue River head coach Ronnie Stewart said after the game. “We knew exactly what they were going to try to do. It’s just being able to execute and come in with our own energy, as well.”
As the Rams continue to roll through the 2A Northeast Conference, Stewart said his team knows what it must do with just three games left in the regular season. Friday night’s loss was a tough blow, but the team still has room to climb in the standings before the regional tournament.
The Eagles will take on Moorcroft, Sundance and Upton to close the regular season, the latter two of which are at home.
“The boys know what’s at stake,” Stewart said. “We definitely don’t need to be reminding them, even though we will still remind them.”
Colton Bates led all scorers Friday night with 20 points. Jay Keo scored 13 to lead Tongue River.
The Rams will host Wright Saturday at 4 p.m., while the Eagles travel to Moorcroft.
Big Horn High School………..26 21 13 13 — 73
Tongue River High School…..10 10 10 12 — 42
Big Horn — Bates 20, N. McCafferty 11, W. Williams 11, VanDyken 10, Eisele 8, C. Williams 5, Warder 2, Q. McCafferty 2, Geist 2, Pelissier 2
Tongue River — Keo 13, Fritz 12, Kutterer 11, Patterson 3, Sharp 2, Schroder 1