Rangers 0-2 at 2A State Basketball Tourney
Losses to Pine Bluffs, Wright end Kemmerer's season
The Kemmerer High School boys’ basketball team saw their season come to an end Friday at the 2A State Basketball Tournament in Casper, but not before providing a few memorable moments for Rangers fans to hang their hats on.
The Rangers (14-12) opened the tournament Thursday against eventual champions Pine Bluffs, losing to the Hornets 70-48. In Friday’s elimination round against Wright, the Rangers battled back from a 20-point first-half deficit to pull within two points late in the contest, eventually running out of steam in a heartbreaking loss to the Panthers, 71-62.
The loss ended Kemmerer’s season, as well as the high school careers of seniors Jake Kampman, Wyatt Peternal, Chase Bowen, Mason Riding, Eric Wiswell and Ciris Kominsky.
“It was kind of a frustrating weekend for us — we were playing pretty well coming out of the regional tournament, but we came up against two good teams that were more physical and athletic than we were,” said KHS head coach Matt Stewart. “We got down in both of those games by 15 or 20 points at the half, and just couldn’t quite battle back like we had been the past couple of weeks.”
Though the Rangers faced their share of adversity over the course of the season, Stewart called his first year at the helm a success, and reiterated the pride he felt for the team for their grit, determination and never-give-up mentality.
“Not knowing I was going to be the coach until about two weeks before the start of the season, not having much time to work with these kids in the offseason, I think we had a really successful season,” Stewart said. “I know it was disappointing coming down from 3A and some of the struggles we had throughout the season — losing our first three conference games on the road, that kind of thing — but I’m just truly proud of the boys, the way they battled every game. They continued to fight.”
As for the seniors he’ll lose to graduation, Stewart said that — while they may not have been the most vocal bunch — their leadership was felt, on and off the court.
“We had a great group of seniors that were maybe not always the most vocal, but they were great examples out on the court,” Stewart said. “They worked hard, and provided great leadership for our young guys.”
Pine Bluffs 70,
Coming into the 2A State Basketball Tournament at Casper College Thursday as the No. 3 seed out of the West, the Rangers knew they would have their hands full with the No. 2 seed from the East, Pine Bluffs, the defending 2A state champions.
The Hornets were as good as advertised, jumping out to a 26-10 lead in the first quarter and keeping their foot on the gas the rest of the way in a 70-48 win.
“Pine Bluff is a big, athletic, strong team — they came out pretty fired up and put a lot of pressure on us,” Stewart said. “We handled their pressure pretty well, but we had trouble scoring, and they came out on fire — I think they had four 3-pointers in the first half against us.”
Jake Kampman paced the Rangers with 17 points, to go along with nine rebounds. Wyatt Peternal followed with 15 points, while Chase Bowen finished with 11 points, seven boards and two assists. Kaden Witbeck and Ethyn Perkins chipped in two points apiece, while Skyler Rogers rounded out the scoring with a point.
“Things weren’t going our way in that game,” Stewart said. “We had trouble finishing around the rim, and getting the ball inside to our big guys like we’ve been able to in the past. We turned the ball over a little bit more than we wanted to, and with their athleticism, they were able to beat us off the dribble and get to the hole, get deep into the paint and score. We struggled defensively, as well as taking care of the ball.”
Facing elimination Friday against Wright, the Rangers were still feeling the effects of Thursday’s loss to Pine Bluffs, and the first quarter score bore that out.
“Going into the Wright game, we talked about how we didn’t want this to be our last game for our seniors,” Stewart said. “We talked about not having a repeat performance of the night before, but we came out in the first quarter, and got down 28-8 by the end of the first. We battled back a little bit before halftime — we were down by 17. Went into the locker room and had a pretty good pep talk.”
Trailing 44-27 at the break, the Rangers came out for the second half a different team, ready to go down swinging, despite the score.
“I told the boys at half, ‘We need to cut this thing to eight or 10 points by the end of the third quarter, then make a run earlier in the fourth to have a shot,’” Stewart said. “I re-emphasized we didn’t want this to be our last game — I felt like we had a lot more to offer in this tournament. The kids really took that to heart.”
The Rangers outscored Wright 20-11 in the third quarter to trail 55-47 going into the final frame. In the fourth, Kemmerer twice pulled within two points of the Panthers, but couldn’t quite complete the miraculous comeback in the 71-62 loss.
“We made some adjustments defensively — switched from man to a zone — and that really worked out for us in the second half,” Stewart said. “We probably should have gone to that in the second quarter. The boys chipped away at the lead, got it to within two a couple of times — we just didn’t finish as strong the last couple of minutes.”
Senior Jake Kampman had a masterful performance in what turned out to be his final game as a Ranger, pouring in 26 points and pulling down 21 rebounds in the loss. Wyatt Peternal added 17 points, while Chase Bowen finished with 10 points, to go along with five rebounds and a team-high four assists. Skyler Rogers added six points, while Ethyn Perkins chipped in three points.
career with 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds
KHS senior Jake Kampman was honored in a special ceremony last week for finishing his Ranger career with over 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds.
“Hitting 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds is a huge accomplishment,” said KHS head coach Matt Stewart. “To hit 1,000 points in a career is pretty special, but to get over the 1,500-point mark and 1,000 rebounds — I’m not sure that’s been done in the state of Wyoming. There are a couple of other kids around the state that are close to the 1,500-point mark, but not very many are close on the rebounds. That’s a huge accomplishment for Jake, and something he was striving to get to by the end of the season. I’m really happy he was able to reach those milestones, and am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for him.”