BIG HORN — Seemingly no one can stop the Big Horn Rams basketball team.
The Rams clinched the 2A Northeast Conference title with a 74-56 victory over the Wright Panthers Saturday.
The win gives the Rams a 16-2 overall record and an 8-0 conference record. Saturday’s win gave Big Horn its ninth victory in as many games, and the team will take the top seed out of the Northeast Conference going into regionals.
“We’ve always said that we want to put ourselves in the best possible position headed into regionals,” Rams head coach Ryan Alley said. “We took a big step toward that today to get that number one seed.”
Big Horn’s signature style of play, with a web of full-court presses and quick transition offense, hit the Panthers square between the eyes in the first quarter.
Big Horn went on a commanding 17-0 run to start the game, and Wright’s fans and players remained speechless as the Rams made quick work of the second-place team in the conference. Big Horn has made a habit of getting off to big starts against its opponents, and Alley said it’s crucial to the way they play basketball.
“It helps us get settled in, that’s for sure,” Alley said of the opening. “The nice thing is that throughout the game, we have several of those. So we can really outlast teams.”
But Wright made some adjustments. After the massive run, the Rams lead had been cut to 12 points. The lead hovered around that mark throughout most of the game.
Big Horn ran into foul trouble, giving Wright some hope. The Rams’ post and one of the team’s leading scorers, Wheaton Williams, picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter and had three fouls by the time the buzzer went off for the first half.
Williams still led scoring for the Rams with 18 points.
Few big men left on the bench proved to be one of the factors that led to a big game from Wright’s Dallas Millin.
The 6-foot, 4-inch senior led all scoring with 32 points to keep his team in the contest.
“He’s tough — he can shoot inside, he can shoot outside,” Alley said of Millin. “We missed a few assignments and left him open sometimes. But overall, I thought we did a good job containing him.”
Big Horn’s defense started to waiver near the end of the game. After a tough third quarter when Big Horn was outscored and a handful of blown defensive assignments in the fourth quarter, Alley called his team to the sideline for a pep talk.
He had a clear message for his team: “Don’t play not to lose; play to win.”
Big Horn’s players heard their coach loud and clear. After the timeout, the Rams forced two turnovers and went on a 5-0 run to put the game away for good.
Colton Bates finished with a double-double — 16 points and 10 assists. Nolan McCafferty finished the night with 16 points, as well.
The Rams will wrap up the regular season with a road game at Upton Friday and their final home game of the season against Moorcroft Saturday.
Wright………………..12 13 17 14 — 56
Big Horn…………….27 16 13 18 — 74
Big Horn — W. Williams 18, McCafferty 16, Bates 16, Warder 8, VanDyken 8, Eisele 4, C. Williams 4