Rangers punch ticket to state

COURTESY PHOTO / Paige Becker

First state tourney appearance for Kemmerer boys since 2011

The Kemmerer Rangers boys’ basketball team earned fourth place at the 2A West regional tournament in Riverton last weekend. Kemmerer defeated Riverside and beat Wind River on a last-minute basket in overtime to clinch a spot in the 2A state tournament this weekend in Casper. The Rangers are pictured with coaches Jim Grosulak and Erik Becker.

The Kemmerer Rangers boys’ basketball team defied expectations last weekend and earned a spot in the 2A state tournament.

The Rangers opened the 2A West tournament in Riverton on Thursday, Feb. 21, against the Tongue River Eagles. The Rangers lost to the Eagles 66-51. On Friday, Feb. 22, Kemmerer played Riverside in the consolation round and came out victorious, 69-40, eliminating Riverside.

But the biggest surprise of the weekend came on Saturday. The Rangers came back from an 18-point deficit against Wind River to pull off a 71–69 win against the Cougars in overtime with a last-minute basket from sophomore Clayton Moyles.

The win eliminated Wind River and earned Kemmerer a place at the 2A state tournament this weekend in Casper.

“We saw we had an opportunity to win, even though we were down by 18 after the first quarter,” said head coach Jim Grosulak. “It all came down to patience and defense, and we gave ourselves a chance to advance.”

Later on Saturday afternoon, the Rangers faced off against Tongue River again, and came up just short of a win, falling 57–55 to claim fourth place at regionals.

The Rangers now compete at the 2A state basketball tournament in Casper, a first for the Kemmerer boys’ team since 2011.

Going into the regional tournament, the Rangers had only won two games, both against Shoshoni, in the regular season.

Grosulak said the Ranger boys were excited for the opportunity to compete at state, and he was happy as well.

“These boys didn’t want their season to end last weekend,” Grosulak said. “So we told them to focus game by game and not just look at who you’re playing next, and it paid off for us.”

On Thursday, Feb. 28, the Rangers (No. 4 West) will face off against Pine Bluffs (No. 1 East), at 1:30 p.m. at Casper College. Pine Bluffs is 22–1 this season (including regional play) and the Kemmerer Rangers are 4–22.

The first-year Rangers head coach outlined the team’s strategy for this weekend at state, going into what will likely be a tough contest against the No. 1 team from the East.

“We need to concentrate on the things we do as a team but also be aware and prepare for a good team like Pine Bluffs,” Grosulak said. “If we don’t do well at defense and rebounding, it could be a long weekend. But if we do well at that, we could pick up some wins this weekend and maybe pull off an upset.”

Back in January, in the Rangers’ first match-up against Wind River this season, Kemmerer fell 86-35. Last weekend’s win is truly a reflection of the progress the team has made.

Grosulak said the team has tried not to focus on the program’s past shortfalls, but move forward to play four strong quarters in every game.

“We came together and realized the roles we each play,” Grosulak said. “We’ve been concentrating on how to get better all throughout the year.”

If Kemmerer beats Pine Bluffs, they play in the semi-finals against the winner of the Glenrock/Rocky Mountain game.

If Kemmerer wins the semi-final game, they play in the state championship game on Saturday, March 2, at 8:00 p.m. at the Casper Events Center.

If Kemmerer loses against Pine Bluffs, they play in the consolation round against the loser of the Glenrock / Rocky Mountain game. The loser of that game is out of the state tournament.

The Rangers’ performances on Thursday and Friday will determine if they advance in the state tournament on Saturday.

Kemmerer junior Colter Brunski is fourth in scoring in the 2A west conference, and ninth in scoring this season in the 2A class overall. Junior Caden Bowen is fifth in rebounding and seventh in field goal percentage in the 2A West, and 10th in rebounding in 2A overall.

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