BIG HORN — If quality losses exist in sports, the Big Horn High School boys basketball team had two of them over the weekend.
The Rams fell 66-64 in a nailbiter to 3A Newcastle High School on Saturday. The defeat came less than 24 hours after a six-point loss to Buffalo, the top-ranked team in 3A.
On Saturday, Newcastle’s Cade Ostenson hit a 10-foot contested leaner with 1.4 seconds left to give the Dogies the two-point victory. Big Horn’s shot from half court sailed over the backboard at the buzzer. The No. 3 Rams are now 12-5 overall.
Big Horn head coach Mike Daley said the Rams undoubtedly improved against the top-tier competition. He said three games in a row — Big Horn defeated Tongue River Thursday — provided excellent simulation for postseason play later this month.
“Any time you’re in competitive games like that and kids battle and compete, they’re getting better,” Daley said. “…Those are good indicators of how hard we’re going to have to play.”
Big Horn’s Kade Eisele agreed.
“There are some losses where you don’t really get too much better, but these losses were losses where we got a lot better,” Eisele said. “You can’t really be disappointed.”
Newcastle led for the vast majority of the second half, but Big Horn continued to claw and battle, gradually decreasing its deficit in the fourth quarter.
Kade VanDyken made two free throws to tie the game with 13 seconds left, but Ostenson hit the game-winner on the next possession.
Under heavy pressure, he took the ball the length of the court and picked up his dribble just inside the free throw line. He couldn’t find any teammates open but leaned in and made the difficult shot for his 24th and 25th points of the contest.
Daley complimented Ostenson, calling him one of the best players Big Horn has faced all season.
“He’s a handful,” Daley said. “I thought we did an amazing job on the last play of the game, but he hits a shot. It’s a hell of a tough shot and we defended as well as we could, but he knocks it down. Good players will get you sometimes, and a good player got us tonight.”
Newcastle’s dynamic duo of Ostenson and Dylon Tidyman gave the Rams trouble throughout the game, each scoring more than 20 points. The Dogies also had a significant advantage beyond the 3-point line. Newcastle made seven shots behind the arc, while Big Horn only made two.
VanDyken led the Rams with 21 points, doing most of his damage at the free throw line, where he made 15 of 17 attempts during the tightly contested affair. The game was tied at 13 after the first quarter and knotted at 32 at halftime.
The Rams can still claim the top seed in regionals by going undefeated in their four final regular season games. Their head coach said if the players build on this week’s efforts, they should be in excellent position at playoff time.
“If we can step up from where we played the last two days, we’re going to be a pretty solid basketball team,” Daley said.
Big Horn travels to Moorcroft Friday at 7 p.m.
Newcastle…13 19 19 15 — 66
Big Horn…..13 19 15 17 — 64
Newcastle — Ostenson 25, Tidyman 23, Haslam 13, Talley 4, Covey 1
Big Horn — VanDyken 21, Eisele 10, McCafferty 10, Bates 9, Parker 8, Pelissier 4, Bradshaw 2