The results might not have been there—at least in the win-loss column—for Jackson Hole High School basketball teams on their trip to Riverton for an early-season tournament, but both new head coaches saw a lot of positives in the weekend.
Girls show grit
What a tough way to start 2021-22 for the Lady Broncs as they drew powerhouse Cheyenne East on Friday. East is 4-0 in the early going and just destroying teams. Jackson had the misfortune of matching up with the Thunderbirds in their first game of the season and the result was an extra-large serving of humble pie.
The 70-27 drubbing was certainly no fun to play through but credit coach Andrea Joyce and the girls for taking what they could from the experience and leaving the rest behind them when they faced Cheyenne Central the following day.
“Cheyenne East is really good, and we just kind of panicked against the press in that first game of the year,” Joyce admitted. “We knew Central would come out pressuring the same way but we went back to the hotel Friday night and fixed a lot of our problems. We were in the right spots Saturday.”
Jackson gutted out a 52-45 win against the Indians Saturday after trailing by 3 at the half. More impressive, the Lady Broncs finished strong with a 30-point second half including 18 in the 4th.
Even with newcomer stud Rachel Noyce parked for much of the game with foul trouble, Jackson managed to find the offense to put away Central. Audrey Fouras led the way with 17 points. Karsen Breeding added 14, and Noyce, in limited duty, pitched in 8 along with 8 boards.
The storyline for the Lady Broncs Saturday was how well they shot their free throws. Officiating was tight and the Jackson girls did much of their damage from the charity stripe, converting 26 of 36 on the afternoon. Noyce was 6 for 6, Breeding 8 of 9, and Fouras hit on 7 of her 12 trips to the line. Even point guard Jacie Chatham, who shot an abysmal 31% from the line last season, was 3-4 including 2 huge free throws in the 4th quarter with the game on the line.
One benefit to Noyce sitting for long stretches was getting a better look at Anna Revill. The newcomer to basketball is also a tennis standout. With her length, she showed signs of being a dominant rebounder all weekend with 4 offensive boards and 4 defensive rebounds.
“Watch out for Anna. She’s really coming on and pushing to get into the starting lineup,” Joyce said. “She really stepped up for Rachel [Noyce]. She has a good lefthanded layup. She doesn’t miss many under the basket.”
The backcourt continues to be the team’s bugaboo. Trusted ball handlers and outside shooting is practically non-existent, but when this team sets up the half-court offense, they are impressively dangerous.
Boys bungle one, bounce back
The boys come into the 2021-22 campaign with high expectations as a core trio of sophomores has the conference buzzing. As freshmen, Seb Brunner, Andrew Hanna, and Gavin Keelin all saw significant playing time last year. The thought of these emerging stars playing for another three years has to be a daunting prospect for the rest of the league.
Still, beginning the season Friday, some of the same old problems that dogged the 1-18 team last year resurfaced again over the weekend.
Until coach Hayden Hatfield is able to successfully change the culture of a losing program, the Broncs continue to look like a team trying to find a way to lose as the game gets into the latter stages. The phrase “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” has come home to roost with the Black & Orange.
The Broncs came out firing Friday against Cheyenne East. So, too, did the Thunderbirds. A 21-21 score at the end of the 1st quarter was evidence of two teams that were feeling it from the floor.
“We shot really well early on. Shot the 3-ball well,” Hatfield said. “But then we slowly started fading.”
Jackson lost Hanna and Carson Harland late in the game after they fouled out, and the scoring reflected a team that just fell off the pace: 21 in the 1st, 20 in the 2nd, 15 in the 3rd, 6 in the 4th, and 5 in overtime.
And the Broncs have to do a better job of taking care of the basketball.
“We had 29 turnovers in that game. We are not going to be able to win that way,” Hatfield said.
Keelin’s 18, with 7 boards and 4 blocked shots, paced the Broncs. Hanna and Brunner pitched in 15 each—Hanna finishing with a double-double as he added 11 rebounds.
The final: Cheyenne East 73, Jackson 67
Saturday’s contest with defending state champs Cheyenne Central was a lopsided affair but the Broncs hung in there with a team that is the class of the conference and a beast in the east.
“The guys competed really well against a top-tier team in the state,” Hatfield said. “They had four guys over 6’5”. We just couldn’t match up against that so we had to zone ‘em up. When we got down early, well, it’s just hard to come back against them.”
The Broncs dug themselves a 22-6 hole at one point but managed to hang tough with the Indians, outscoring them in the 2nd quarter 13-12. The final score—a 53 to 34 loss—was nothing to brag about, but there were bright spots.
Hanna finished with another double-double, scoring 14 and hauling down 11 boards. Brunner added 13 including 3 assists—something Hatfield was perhaps more excited about than the points.
“Seb had 10 turnovers Friday night and no assists,” the coach pointed out.
The backcourt is still looking for a ball-handling point guard who can distribute. Shooting guard Brunner is a streaky shooter but too error-prone at this point to be a reliable player bringing the ball up the floor. Junior Isaac Larsen handled most of the dribbling chores over the weekend and looked comfortable doing it.
“Isaac is the guy we developed the heck out of in the offseason,” Hatfield said. “He’s an elite shooter and a good ball-handler. Isaac comes up even in assist-to-turnover ratio most nights. I’ll take a one-to-one ratio any day. What we are really looking for in a point guard is poise, and someone who doesn’t dribble to dribble, but dribbles with a purpose.”
Hatfield saw a lot of positives in the Riverton tournament. It’s never easy beginning the season against the bigger and better teams in the east but it sure exploits a team’s weaknesses in a hurry and makes it clear what needs worked on.
“Look, what Riverton showed us is we belong with these teams. That’s what I told our guys,” Hatfield said. “We played solid defense, and we grew a lot over the weekend.”
Back to practice this week, Hatfield said his team will work on the basics in preparation for Teton this Saturday.