SHERIDAN — There was plenty of local love on Valentine’s Day as fans filled the stands at the cross-county rivalry games between the Big Horn and the Tongue River boys and girls basketball teams Friday night in Big Horn.
The girls kicked it off with the Lady Eagles (16-2) defeating the Lady Rams (9-10) with a final score of 60-46.
The girls battled it out, neck and neck coming out of the first half. The Lady Eagles were ahead every quarter but only by a couple points at first, finishing the first quarter 12-11 and the second 31-28.
After returning to the court after halftime, the Lady Eagles switched defensive tactics and shut out the Lady Rams to the tune of 11 unanswered points.
“I think in the first half our pressure defense bothered them a little at times, but they did fight back,” Lady Eagles head coach Dianne Moser said. “So in the second half we went back to half-court press and held them that way.”
“We just had a stretch there where we went cold,” Lady Rams head coach Mike Daley said. “I was pretty pleased with the first half and the way we stayed focused but then they turned a three-point lead into a 14-point lead and you just can’t let that happen when you’re playing good teams like this.”
This isn’t the first time this season Tongue River tasted cross-county victory. The Lady Eagles also beat Big Horn in January 51-36.
“When we step on the floor we’re looking to win,” Moser said, “but Big Horn is a good team, this is their gym, and it’s a big rivalry, so you just never know what will happen. It was a good win.”
Coach Moser played two new starters off the bench — Allison Reed and Amanda Buller — and they both had strong showings. Buller was second leading scorer with 10 points, being out-shot only by standard points-earner Eryn Aksamit who put 14 on the board.
Consistant scorers Hanneah Puckett and Bailey Bard lead the way for the Lady Rams, scoring 12 and 11 respectively.
Tongue River heads to Wright (5-13) tomorrow for another conference match. The Lady Panthers were 2-3 in conference heading into the weekend matchups and the Lady Eagles were undefeated in conference match-ups with a record of 5-0.
“Wright has a couple good, young athletes on the floor,” Moser said. “Hopefully we didn’t show it all tonight and have something left for them tomorrow.”
The ladies defeated Wright 58-29 the last time they met on Jan. 31.
The Lady Rams will travel to Greybull (9-9) tomorrow with hopes to start a run of wins before conference tournaments begin.
“Greybull has a couple good shooters we’ve got to play good defense on,” Daley said. “The goal is to keep getting better. I think we got better tonight, even though we lost, and hopefully we’ll just continue to do so.”
The same rivalry match for the boys was up next, but with quite different results.
The Big Horn Rams (11-8) nearly doubled the total points scored by Tongue River (5-13) in a repeat of the victory they saw in January against the Eagles.
Multiple Rams showed up to play Friday night with three players putting double digits on the board, contributing to the final score of 72-38.
Seth Kite led the team in both points scored and rebounds held putting up 16 and pulling down 13.
Colter Carzoli and Devon Ibach were hot on his heels, each scoring 15 points.
“These kids came out with a lot of energy, especially late in the first, and put a good run on it,” Rams head coach Ryan Alley said. “We stopped a lot of the things they wanted to do.”
Tongue River made a strong overall team effort with 10 of the 12 men scoring points, but struggled defensively.
“One of our team identities is to box out and we did not do that well,” Eagles head coach Robert Griffin said. “If you hang your hat on something and let up on that, it doesn’t work out well.”
Austen Scammon led the Eagles with nine points and 11 rebounds claimed.
Griffin commended Big Horn on not only their performance that night but their strong team which he attributes to a great coach.
“Big Horn certainly has my number,” he said. “Coach Alley is going to keep me up nights for years to come if I can’t figure out how to beat him. As far as rivalries go, this one is real.”
Tongue River heads to Wright (1-18) tomorrow for a conference match that Griffin says is “more significant than the match with Big Horn.”
“They’ve got some big guys,” he said. “We need to pressure their guards and play strong man-to-man. We barely got them before, so this is what we’ve been focusing on.”
The Eagles squeaked out a win in January against Wright by just three points.
The Big Horn boys will travel to face No. 4-ranked Greybull (16-3) tomorrow.
The Rams lost to the Buffaloes in December, 62-45, but anticipate a very different game tomorrow.
“Both teams have gotten better since we lost before Christmas,” Alley said. “It’ll be a nice challenge for us getting ready for regionals and state.”
The season is winding down with regionals in Cheyenne for Big Horn and Tongue River starting Feb. 27 and state tournaments in Casper the weekend of March 6.