TORRINGTON – After a 3-3 record and couple of near misses to finish the regular season, the Niobrara County boys’ basketball team was looking to steal a couple of wins and sneak into the 2A State tournament.
While the Tigers came up short of that goal, they won their first regional game in five years.
Big Horn defeated the Tigers 50-33 early in the season and has a roster full of big, talented and fast athletes. Their recent run of success in multiple sports is evident in the way they prepare and execute, but seemed a bit shook by the Tigers early grit. James Stone gave NCHS their only lead with a layup and ensuing free throw just 90 seconds in. The 3-2 lead didn’t last long as the Rams went on an 8-2 run to end the first period.
Walker Kupke slowed a 10-5 run by the Rams with a three pointer, and back to back baskets from Tanner Carpenter and Stone pulled the Tigers within 22-19 as halftime approached. The Rams found themselves in an unexpected battle, ahead just four at the break.
While the experienced Rams casually extended the lead, Kupke’s trey as the third quarter wound down got Lusk as close as they would at 42-31. Big Horn held on to the lead as they made five of six free tosses down the stretch to defeat the Tigers, 56-42.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
NCHS: 13/34 FG; 3/15 3PT; 7/19 FT; 28 REB; 9 AST; 9 STL; 18 TO; 16 PF
BHHS: 16/35 FG; 3/12 3PT; 15/19 FT; 38 REB; 12 AST; 8 STL; 22 TO; 16 PF
NCHS PLAYER STATS: Scoring- Kupke 11, Carpenter 8, Stauffer 8, Stone 7, Da. Molzahn 4, Bruegger 3, Eiden 1. Rebounds- Bruegger 8.
Friday’s elimination game was against a very inexperienced and small Wright squad which Lusk had beaten 56-30 in the first game of the season. NCHS scored the first dozen points and when Bruegger’s layup and free throw moved it to 15-2, the Tigers never looked back.
The lead was 22-7 after one as the Tigers forced a dozen turnovers. Carpenter buried a triple midway through the second and the lead was 22 points, while Bruegger was having his way in the paint. The junior had 19 of Lusk’s 41 halftime points, outscoring the Panthers by three.
After halftime NCHS kept the pressure on and when Stone got the steal, layup and free throw, Lusk’s lead grew to 50-20. Bruegger’s three pointer capped a 25-point night as the Tigers led 54-21 entering the final frame. As the junior varsity team finished out the game Jayce Cummins drained a trey helping NCHS to the 66-34 win.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
NCHS: 22/49 FG; 3/11 3PT; 13/20 FT; 35 REB; 16 AST; 27 STL; 7 BLK; 17 TO; 22 PF
WRIGHT: 9/28 FG; 3/11 3PT; 7/19 FT; 33 REB; 9 AST; 12 STL; 33 TO; 17 PF
NCHS PLAYER STATS: Scoring- Bruegger 25, Eiden 12, Stone 9, Carpenter 8, Dy. Molzahn 4, Stauffer 3, Cummins 3, Da. Molzahn 2. Rebounds- Bruegger 7, Eiden 7, Stone 5. Assists- Stone 6. Steals- Carpenter 8, Stauffer 5. Blocks- Bruegger 7.
Saturday morning while the Lady Tigers were engaged in a double overtime finish in Yoder, the boys faced Sundance smarting from their big loss to the Cyclones in the semi-finals. Despite 15 points from Carpenter, Stauffer and Bruegger, the Bulldogs held a lead of eight after one period. NCHS got it down to six late in the second quarter but turnovers assisted Sundance in moving it to 36-26 at the break.
While Bruegger tried to keep the Tigers close with nine points, the Bulldogs got scoring from six different players. The deficit was 14 for NCHS as the fourth stanza began. Carpenter’s three pointer cut it to 10 points, but the Tigers could not take advantage of five turnovers, while shooting just 2-of-12 from the free throw line. Sundance held on to eliminate NCHS, 65-49.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
NCHS: 16/51 FG; 2/12 3PT; 11/25 FT; 33 REB; 11 AST; 17 STL; 20 TO; 25 PF
SUNDANCE: 18/27 FG; 3/11 3PT; 20/30 FT; 38 REB; 11 AST; 7 STL; 31 TO; 21 PF
NCHS PLAYER STATS: Scoring- Bruegger 20, Stauffer 13, Carpenter 12, Kupke 2, Da. Molzahn 1, Eiden 1. Rebounds- Stauffer 11, Stone 8, Bruegger 6. Steals- Stone 7, Bruegger 5.