Wheatland Bulldogs start slow before getting on track

Mark DeLap
Posted 12/13/22

Boys end the weekend with a victory

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Wheatland Bulldogs start slow before getting on track


WHEATLAND – The Wheatland Bulldogs lost their first three games of the season in the Burns Winter Classic last weekend.

Although they were beaten in all first three games of the classic, they came back to Wheatland for the Saturday game against Thermopolis and beat the Cats by 11.

The team which graduated their leading scorer in Kade Preuit last season had a one dimensional offense and this year is striving to find how to go from a theocratic team to a democratic team. Although there has not been a step-up leader emerging, it may not be a bad thing as veteran head coach Mick Cochran is looking to get everyone involved in the offense and in the defensive scheme.

Their first game against Pine Bluffs was a Bulldog team looking for an identity and not finding it in the first half, taking turns rushing the ball to the tangled mess in the paint. Forced shots yielded a Bobcat team who was strong in transition and deadly on the perimeter hitting 10 three-point shots. The Bulldogs came out a little more controlled in the second half, but with a 20-point deficit it was an uphill battle. The Bulldogs made a strong run toward the end and lost the game 61-46.

For the game, JP Anderson was the leading scorer with 16 points and he shot 8-12 at the free throw line. Bryce Stenson had a solid game with 13 points followed by Lee Raser with 6, Nolan Hofrock and Brock Peasely each with 4, Jacob Hyche with 2 and Colton Halverson with one point.

Playing against Burns, the Bulldogs came out with more of a slowed-down offense and played the Broncs tight throughout the game on their home court. At halftime the score was in favor of the Bulldogs by three, but second half pressure turned the tide and instead of being up by three, they were down by three at the end of the third quarter.

In the end, they couldn’t get the shots they wanted in the fourth quarter and lost only by six, 47-41 with Cochran already seeing improvement and heading in a positive direction.

Stenson led all Bulldog scorers with 17 points followed by Tagg Mickelsen with 7, Hyche with 5, Aric Suko with 4, Halvorson with 3 and Raser with 2 points.

Big Horn was on the docket for the late game in Burns and the Rams carry some good size and tonnage in the paint. A physical game in the paint was laced with fouls and hard hits. Hofrock had to leave the game with a concussion and further diminished a bigger lineup.

Although the Bulldogs battled hard, in the end, the physical bodies that Big Horn had made the difference, but even with that, the Dogs only lost by 14 and were never out of the game.

Stenson again led the team in scoring with 15 followed by Anderson with 8, Mickelsen with 4. Raser and Peasely each added 2 points apiece.

On Saturday the boys played against Thermopolis with a depleted team as they only dressed eight players. The Bulldogs came out scrapping and with an inspired defense, they didn’t yield any easy shots and held the Cats to only 2 points in the first quarter. By Halftime Wheatland held a 22-7 lead and then increased it in the third quarter taking a 32- 12 lead.

The 20-point lead which seemed secure, wasn’t. Thermopolis came back with a press that took the Bulldogs by surprise but they eventually held their ground and walked off with a 45-34 victory.

“Our team is working hard to get better each day,” Cochran said. “We are trying to find the right combinations and get comfortable in playing together. I thought we played great defense at times and we can really build on this. We are hoping the offense comes along and we can defense into offense more and more. We have good team chemistry right now and again, just need to find ways to score .”

The boys will play again Friday and Saturday in the Douglas winter tournament. Their tip-off time is yet to be determined.