CHEYENNE – Although the Wheatland High School Bulldogs walked away from the James Johnson Winter Classic without a win last weekend, there were lessons learned according to head coach Mick Cochran.
“I am proud of our team right now,” Cochran said. “We have been learning to control the tempo better and to limit our opponents to how many possessions we give them. By controlling the ball on offense and maintaining our discipline we have learned a lot. We have come a long way in a short period of time.”
It has been no easy task as the Bulldogs have played some top competition in the first half of the season including playing Douglas twice along with teams like Kelly Walsh, Riverton and Cheyenne South which are all 4A teams.
The first game of the classic pitted Wheatland against Douglas for the second time this season. The game was physical, and Douglas forced 18 turnovers to help their cause and to come on the top end of a 43-24 score. It was Douglas’ lowest point total in all the victories they have had thus far this year.
JP Anderson was the leading scorer with 11, followed by Bryce Stenson with six, Nolan Hofrock with four, Aric Suko with two and Jacob Hyche with one point. The bright spot for the Bulldogs was shooting 6-of-8 at the free throw line, but they couldn’t get there often enough.
In the Friday game, they faced a very solid Riverton team who dominated start to finish and did just enough to secure the 16-point victory, 50-34. The Bulldogs could only manage shooting 21% from the field and hit only 2-of-11 shots from the perimeter.
The leading scorer for the game was Jacob Hyche with 15 points, followed by Hofrock with six. Stenson had three, and Anderson and Raser had two each.
After facing the physicality of games one and two, the Bulldogs came out with a renewed energy Saturday as they faced another tough task against Kelly Walsh High School. Kelly Walsh did not have a player suited up under 6’ tall.
With their backs to the wall, the Bulldogs came out and played perhaps their best game of the year, leading the contest most of the way before succumbing to their opponents late in the game by a score of 40-37.
Once again, tempo control and disciplined ball movement prevented many possessions on the KW side, and when they leaned upon their 3-point shooting late, they got hot, eventually rallied to take the lead and the game late, although down the stretch, it was never more than a one-possession game.
The Bulldogs were 50% from the free-throw line and shot 58% from the field.
A balanced attack for Wheatland was huge as their scoring was, Anderson with 11, Raser with nine, Stenson with seven, Hyche with seven and Hofrock with three.
The final game of a very grueling tournament had the Bulldogs going against the home team and the home team fan base. The Bulldogs played a good game but ran out of steam as the tournament competition caught up with them. They dropped the game 48-38.
Wheatland had 17 turnovers and didn’t shoot very well from the perimeter hitting only 2-of-11 shots. They once again shined on the free throw line hitting 10-of-11 from the stripe. The leading scorer for the Bulldogs was Stenson with 11 points followed by Anderson with nine. Hofrock had eight, while Hyche had six. Raser and Colton Halverson had two apiece.
The boys will be in action Thursday night against Gering for a 7 p.m. game and then will have another home game against Cheyenne South on Saturday at 7 p.m.