BIG HORN — Kade VanDyken had been held mostly in check for the first 29 minutes of game action. The leading scorer for the Big Horn High School boys basketball team struggled to put the ball in the basket against quality defense from Wright High School for the first three-and-a-half quarters Friday night.
VanDyken stepped up when the Rams needed it, though, draining a 3-pointer with 2:45 left to give Big Horn a four-point lead. The Rams finished the game from there, converting free throws and layups for a 61-50 victory over No. 4 Wright in the team’s final home game of the season.
The third-ranked Rams finished 6-0 in quadrant play and will have the top seed at regionals next week in Gillette.
“Our goal is winning state, so getting here and putting ourselves in the best possible spot to get there being the one seed is a great feeling,” VanDyken said.
The Rams used excellent defense to contain the Panthers for the vast majority of the first three quarters and led 42-31. Big Horn closed the third with 10 straight points and only allowed three points in the quarter’s final six minutes.
“Our defense kind of bailed us out tonight, because our offense was struggling a little more than normal,” VanDyken said. “…Having a good defensive night is exactly what we needed. That’s how we beat good teams, so hopefully we keep doing that.”
Big Horn head coach Mike Daley said the team played well but believes it still has its best game ahead.
The Rams performed well in their man defense but had a couple letdowns, particularly to open the fourth quarter. The Panthers scored 11 straight to tie the game with five minutes left before Cutler Bradshaw converted a layup to give Big Horn a lead it never relinquished.
In a hard-fought, slower-paced game, the Rams displayed offensive patience for the most part, moving the ball around and finding quality shots. Quinn McCafferty led the Rams with 16 points.
“They’re not like six- or eight-point runs in 30 seconds,” Daley said. “They were six or eight (point) runs in two or three minutes. That’s a little bit different, but they were still good runs.”
The Rams made four 3-pointers Friday night, a fairly low number but more than in many of Big Horn’s previous contests and something that is encouraging moving forward.
“We’ve been having shooting issues all year,” VanDyken said. “…Lately our shooting has kind of been slowly coming back, so it feels really good to start knocking those down.”
With one of its milestones accomplished, the Rams have their sights set on the next goal: winning regionals next week.
Big Horn travels to Greybull Saturday at 5 p.m.
Wright……..11 11 9 19 — 50
Big Horn…11 15 15 19 — 61
Wright — Leithead 17, Krieter 11, Vasquez 9, Robb 7, Thompson 4, Knudsen 2
Big Horn — McCafferty 16, VanDyken 14, Bates 12, Eisele 11, Phillips 4, Bradshaw 2, Parker 2