By Gabrielle Gasser Associate Editor
BIG SKY – In an intense game inflamed by a rowdy crowd, the Lone Peak High School Big Horns fell on their home basketball court to the Ennis High School Mustangs coming up short by only six points. In their last contest on Jan. 6, the Mustangs bested the Big Horns by seven points.
Inside the Bough Dolan Athletic Complex on the evening of Jan. 18, a student crowd sporting white clothing for the home team filled the blue Big Horns bleachers as two teams ready to get scrappy hit the hardwood. From the tipoff, the Big Horns and Mustangs battled ferociously in a physical game.
The Big Horns built an early lead bolstered by home court momentum and an aggressive full-court press. Though the Mustangs began to close the gap in the first quarter, junior Big Horn guard Gus Hammond sank two 3-pointers in quick succession to pull ahead.
Lone Peak struggled to deliver on offensive possessions in the second quarter scoring just eight points to Ennis’ 20. Hammond and junior Max Romney led the Big Horns’ offense with jumpers and layups respectively.
Ennis’ scoring streak put the Big Horns behind 40-32 at the half.
The Big Horns came out fired up in the third quarter with Hammond sinking a jump shot on the first offensive possession. He had a standout game contributing 34 points to the Big Horns for the evening.
Junior Ben Saad also added some points to the scoreboard with a 3-pointer and a crucial free throw to bring the Big Horns within one point of the Mustangs in the third quarter. Sophomore George Helms also sunk two free throws for the Big Horns late in the third quarter to maintain the one-point gap at 45-44 Ennis.
As the third quarter wound down, the Big Horns struggled on the defensive end of the court and missed important rebounds that gave the Mustangs second- and third- chance shots.
Another momentum shift sent the Big Horns into the fourth quarter strong, with a 3-pointer keeping the score close at 50-49 Ennis. Six minutes into the quarter, the score was tied at 54 and play became frenzied with both teams becoming more physical.
Hammond and Saad sank a 3-pointer apiece to keep the Big Horns within two points of the Mustangs as they tried to pull ahead. Romney was fouled late in the fourth quarter and sank a free throw bringing the score to 66-63 in favor of the Mustangs.
With mere seconds on the clock, the Big Horns called a timeout and LPHS Head Coach John Hannahs drew up a play for the Big Horns to make a bid to tie the game.
As the seconds fell away, the Big Horns had a few unlucky breaks that cost them those vital points.
Senior John Chadwell fought hard for an offensive rebound and put it back up for the last two points scored by the Big Horns in the game.
Hannahs called another timeout with 19 seconds on the clock and the score sitting at 68-65 Mustangs. On the next offensive possession, the refs called a Big Horns travel, relinquishing their possession and what seemed like all hope of another Big Horns score.
Though the Big Horns were able to steal the ball back from the Mustangs, they were unable to translate that fast break into points and began fouling to stop the clock. In the end, Ennis sealed their victory with points made on the free throw opportunities.
The Big Horns played with heart for four hard quarters, but those last 20 seconds decided the game and the final score of 71-65 with the Mustangs on top.
“I think we played extremely well the whole game overall, we had our best offensive game of the season, but we didn’t play as well on defense as we usually do,” Hannahs wrote in an email to EBS. “We got some steals out of our pressure, but then forced passes and gave the ball right back. If our offensive momentum continues and we button up the defense I think we can get some district wins this final stretch of the season.”
The Big Horns now have a 2-9 record for the season. Next on the schedule, the Big Horns hit the road on Saturday, Jan. 22 to play the Sheridan High School Panthers.