Pine Bluffs Hornets take State Division Title
March 10, 2022
Pine Bluffs ended a three-year drought without a championship and heartbreak at the state basketball tournament Saturday night. The Hornets road to the 2A boys state championship game was not going to be an easy one as they had to play the teams from Shoshoni and Tounge River. The Hornets did arrive at the tournament with one single thought, to be the state champions.
The Hornets took on the Shoshoni Wranglers first. The Hornets powered over the Wranglers as they scored 63 points. Their defense was on key as they held the Wranglers to 46 points. The Hornets wanted to make a statement. They were here to win and become the state champs. They beat the Wranglers 63-46.
Next would be the Tounge River Eagles. Again the Hornets scored over 60 points in the game. The Eagles did not soar this day nor could they dive down to try to steal a victory from the Hornets. They fell to the Hornets 62-51. The Hornets were now headed to the championship game.
After a back-and-forth first half in the championship game, the Hornets took control to earn a 52-41 victory over the Big Horn Rams at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper. Revenge is so sweet as the Big Horn Rams were the team that knocked the Hornets out of the regional championship game last week.
"There are no words to describe this," Pine Bluffs senior Reed Thompson said. "We worked so hard for this. It's just like a feeling of explosion."
After their 2018 championship, the Hornets lost to the Wyoming Indian's in 2019, in a double overtime game. Then to the eventual state champion Chiefs in the quarterfinals of 2020 and again in 2021 they lost to the eventual state champion Rocky Mountain.
Saturday, the Hornets made sure that streak ended.
Pine Bluffs led 19-17 at the first quarter break and extended the margin to 24-17 at the half thanks to a 3-pointer from Ryan Fornstrom and a slicing drive to the rim from Stu Lerwick. They pushed the lead to nine points on back-to-back mid-range jumpers by Collin Jessen and the 5-foot-10 Fornstrom's layup over 6-8 Toby Schons. The lead was seven (32-25) early in the fourth quarter, but the Rams' Caleb Gibson scored six consecutive points, with the last four coming when he hit a 3-pointer, was fouled, and made the free throw. The Hornets didn't flinch. Lerwick nailed a triple, Dalton Schaefer added an old-fashioned three-point play and Thompson capped an 8-0 run with a floater in the lane. "That was a big turning point," Pine Bluffs head coach Tyler Kimzey said.
The Rams (16-10) never got closer than five points over the final 4 minutes. Pine Bluffs held Big Horn to 4-of-16 shooting from behind the arc and out-rebounded the Rams 25-16. The Hornets also scored 13 points off 13 Big Horn turnovers.
"Nobody on this team is scared of the big moment," said Fornstrom, who scored 17 points and directed the Hornets' offense to near-perfection. The Hornets went on a 6-0 run in the fourth quarter to take the lead for good. "We knew the tempo could be slow because that's how Big Horn likes to play," Kimzey said. "We figured there would be limited possession so we asked our kids to defend and rebound, and that's what they did."
Pine Bluffs held Big Horn to 4-of-16 shooting from behind the arc and out-rebounded the Rams 25-16. The Hornets also scored 13 points off 13 Big Horn turnovers.
"We knew they had good shooters so we just made sure we got our hands up and went after them for 32 minutes straight," Fornstrom said. Lerwick had a game-high 20 points and 10 rebounds. The 6-2 junior was 10-of-12 from the free throw line, including making 4 of 6 in the final minute to keep the Rams at bay.
Congratulations to the Wyoming 2A State Champion Pine Bluffs Hornets