DAYTON — A few minutes into the game, Mike Daley called a timeout. The Big Horn High School boys basketball coach wanted his team to catch its breath and play under control.
The quick refresher was apparently all the Rams needed, as Big Horn cruised to a 78-44 road victory Saturday over Tongue River. The fourth-ranked Rams improved to 8-2, while the Eagles dropped to 2-9.
Daley said he was a bit concerned with how his team would play in its first game in three weeks, but Big Horn responded well.
After the early timeout, Big Horn controlled the game by pushing the pace and locking in defensively for the final three quarters.
The Rams used their athleticism to score in transition and force the Eagles into difficult shots throughout the contest.
Kade VanDyken poured in a career-high 30 points to pace Big Horn. He repeatedly attacked the basket, doing most of his damage in the paint or at the free throw line.
Big Horn used quick, decisive passes to stay ahead of the Tongue River defense and crashed the offensive glass on missed shots. The Rams ran at every opportunity, something VanDyken said plays to the team’s strengths.
“That’s always our game plan,” VanDyken said. “I hope we can continue to do that every game and get out in space.”
His head coach concurred.
“We’re pretty athletic,” Daley said. “Why would I take that bunch and slow them down?”
The Rams were a little short-handed due to injury but received contributions from up and down the roster. Ten Big Horn players scored, including Ayden Phillips, who came off the bench and hit three 3-pointers in the first half to help maintain Big Horn’s lead.
Tongue River scored well in transition, but the Eagles struggled to put the ball in the basket against Big Horn’s halfcourt defense. Nick Summers led TR with 10 points.
Tongue River head coach Tyler Hanson was encouraged by his team’s effort and said the Eagles have significantly bettered themselves from the beginning of the season.
“We’re seeing improvements like crazy all year long,” Hanson said.
Hanson said he sees signs of progress in every game but acknowledged the time required for the young team to move forward.
“It’s a complicated game and it takes a while to start seeing improvements enough that show up on the scoreboard,” Hanson said. “…You can’t cheat it. There’s no such thing as instant results. It takes hundreds and thousands of reps at something to be proficient at it on the basketball court.”
On Saturday, Tongue River faced an athletic, experienced opponent that was too much to handle. The Rams outscored the Eagles by 18 in the second quarter and led 49-24 at halftime. Big Horn kept its intensity high, building its lead up to 66-34 after three quarters before most of the starters exited the game with five minutes remaining.
Both teams begin conference play later this week. Tongue River hosts Greybull Friday at 7 p.m. and Big Horn hosts Moorcroft Friday at 7 p.m.