West Grand prevails in nail-biter
Special to Sky-Hi News
Heart-stopping action was the name of the game for the West Grand High School basketball teams as they played four games in which the total point differential between the Mustangs and their opponents was five points. Unfortunately, the teams were able to only earn one win in the four closely contested games.
In wrestling action, Austin Faeth and Daniel Terwilliger both earned fifth place finishes in the tough Valley Tournament in Center on Saturday.
Sports has more than its share of soubriquets. Names like “The Catch,” “The Drive,” “The Answer,” and “The Georgia Peach” likely conjure images for even the casual sports fan.
On Thursday night against Vail Christian, boys basketball player Travis Gore threw in the game winning shot from approximately 65 feet as time on the game clock expired. Some people have taken to calling the play, which secured the final score of 60-57, “The Shot.”
Gore had been fouled with nine seconds to play with the score knotted at 57 points apiece. The senior, usually a very good free-throw shooter in the clutch, missed both attempts from the charity stripe. In the next 9 seconds, a Vail Christian player grabbed the rebound and raced the length of the court where he missed a layup. Gore grabbed the rebound from that errant shot, glanced up at the clock, took a couple of dribbles and launched a shot that traveled over 60 feet before settling in the West Grand goal.
Somewhere in the middle of that mayhem amidst the raucous sounds that accompany an exciting game in a gymnasium, the final horn sounded. While some believed the horn sounded prior to launch, the only opinion that mattered belonged to the referees and they never hesitated in their call. The head official emphatically signaled the shot was good, igniting a post-game celebration.
Even prior to that shot, the game had been exciting. Vail Christian had soundly trounced the West Grand squad in the first game of the season, but it was readily apparent that this game would end differently. The lead swapped hands numerous times with neither team able to garner a lead that could be classified as comfortable.
As is typical in a close game, every play is magnified and every official ruling is scrutinized. It all served to build up to the triumphant ending.
Typically the team’s leading scorer, Gore was ironically not the leading scorer in the game for the Mustangs. His brother Casey led the way with 15 points while Nick Ritschard scored 14 points. Between the two sophomore guards, they hit five shots from beyond the three-point arch.
Travis Gore led the team in rebounds with seven, while Leo Pesch grabbed six caroms. Casey Gore led the team in steals with four, while Ritschard and Hunter Gasvoda led the team in assists with four apiece.
On Friday, the team then had to travel to Colbran to play the Plateau Valley Cowboys. Unfortunately, West Grand was to experience the roller coaster of emotions that marks athletics. The Mustangs lost the game in the closing minutes when Teddy Grundy of the Plateau Valley team stole the ball and sank a three-pointer to give the host Cowboys a 49-47 victory.
The Mustangs subsequently had three shots at the basket but failed to find the sweet spot of the net and take home yet another thrilling victory.
Travis Gore led the team in scoring with 14 points, while Leo Pesch added 10 points. Those two also led the team in rebounding with 14 and seven rebounds respectively. The team registered 10 assists in the game that saw the Mustangs record fall to 9-3 for the season.
The girls from West Grand also played two close games, but fell short both times, marking the third time in the last four games the Lady Mustangs lost a close and thrilling game.
In the Thurday night against Vail Christian, the Lady Mustangs lost 32-28 in what Coach Sara Mortensen called the best game of the year for West Grand. “All three of us coaches and, I think, most of the crowd would agree that the final score didn’t reflect how well we had played,” Mortensen said. “In addition, the referees and the other team complimented us on our defense.
“I was so proud of our team,” Mortensen said. “They came out strong and stayed strong the whole game.”
Laura Billington hit two three-pointers with Hannah Howell and Sara Vance also hitting long-range shots. Howell and Chyenne Sims led the team in scoring with seven points apiece. Billington had six points, Vance had four points and Courtney Matney added four points.
In the Plateau Valley game, which ended with a 45-43 score, the Lady Mustangs had a few girls foul out. Mortensen also said there were a few decisions that she would do differently with the benefit of hindsight.
Sims again led the team in scoring with nine points while Matney added eight points to the effort. Bailey Amundson scored six points, Anna Cunico added five, while Billington and Howell each scored four points. Cunico nailed one shot from behind the three-point line.
In junior varsity action, West Grand defeated Vail Christian, 19-15, but lost to Plateau Valley, 22-13. Amundson scored 11 points in the Vail Christian victory, with Cunico adding four and Payton Coleman and Bailey Gasvoda scoring two points apiece.
Against Plateau Valley’s junior varsity, Amundson again played strong with numerous steasl and fastbreak layups. Coach Mortensen also praised the defensive efforts of Bailey Monnahan and Iris Melendez.
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