It’s been a long offseason, but the Jackson Hole High School Broncs boys and girls basketball seasons are officially underway. Tipping off their schedule with a pair of doubleheaders in Riverton, the Broncs saw mixed results against quality competition from teams who traveled in from the eastern side of Wyoming.
The girls team — entering year one under head coach Andrea Joyce — rebounded from a tournament-opening loss to the defending 3A champion Cheyenne East Thunderbirds 70-27, to defeat Cheyenne Central 52-45.
Not only was it the first game the girls had played with all of their starters together, but they were forced to go up against a full court press defense, a difficult task for a young, developing team.
“It was kind of night and day for us,” Joyce said. “We went back to the hotel after losing and regrouped. We had a team meeting and decided amongst ourselves that we were going to do a better job the next day ... it didn’t matter who we were playing.”
The players kept their promise and flipped the script in Saturday’s game two, putting the blowout loss behind them and bouncing back for a much needed victory. Free throw shooting is often a good indication of how fluidly the team is playing, and the Broncs were nearly automatic from the line in the second half, going 10-for-11, providing a big enough boost to push them past Central.
Sophomore power forward Karsen Breeding — who has emerged as a leader for Joyce, even as an underclassman — combined for 32 points over the weekend, and paced the Broncs offense. Senior Audrey Fouras — the Broncs’ leading scorer in Saturday’s victory — complemented Breeding with 17 points of her own against Cheyenne Central to go along with her 7 steals.
The girls were outmatched against Cheyenne East, which was picked to win the 4A division in the WyoPreps Preseason Poll. But Joyce believes the experience from playing such a quality opponent — one she considers the best team she’s seen in person — and seeing the work ethic necessary to win at a high level, will go a long way later in the season.
“This is varsity ... You can’t just show up on tryout day, not having played all summer or having picked up a ball. It’s not something you can do two months out of the year ... you need to be working on your skills all offseason and summer if you plan on being any good,” Joyce said.
Hayden Hatfield’s boys Broncs fell in both of their matches over the weekend, and they too saw mixed results. The Broncs — starting three sophomores — fell to Cheyenne East in overtime 73-67 before subsequently losing to Cheyenne Central, 53-34.
Despite falling behind early in their season opener and being forced to claw back in Friday’s overtime loss, the Broncs had an opportunity to win in regulation. Ultimately turnovers, along with several Broncs who found themselves in foul trouble, proved too much to overcome, handing the team their first loss of the young season.
Broncs sophomore guard Gavin Keelin shot 4-for-6 from three-point range in Friday’s loss, finishing with 18 points.
In Saturday’s game two the Broncs were overmatched by a much larger Cheyenne Central squad, a team that was picked to finish second in 4A this season. The Broncs’ three-pointers weren’t falling and the team shot just 36% from the field, struggling to find the same consistent offense they had in the opener. In the loss, sophomore forward Andrew Hanna tallied 14 points, while sophomore guard Seb Brunner tallied 13 points, in their team high 33 minutes of action.
“I told the guys ‘We’re progressing ... We’re starting a process,’” Hatfield said. “I think they showed that they progressed a lot this summer, but we still have a ton of work to do. I think it was a positive weekend.”
Even after being handed a pair of losses to begin their campaign, Hatfield has plenty to be optimistic about, as his team shot 55% from three-point range and went toe to toe with a much larger 4A school in the weekend opener. On the flip side the boys committed 29 turnovers against the Thunderbirds and 44 over the two-game span, giving Hatfield plenty to work on as the team finishes up their pre-winter break schedule.
Hatfield — agreeing with Joyce — believes that playing high-quality competition early in the season will pay dividends down the road, once the team gets to conference play.
“The quality of work the kids put in is showing,” Hatfield said.
Both squads will look to defend their home court this Friday, as the Broncs host the Teton High School Timberwolves. The girls will tip off at 2 p.m., while the boys will begin play at 3:30 p.m. At the conclusion of the game both teams will begin a three-week layoff for winter break, giving them an opportunity to use what they learned over the three-game span to sharpen their skills.
“You need to be working on your skills all offseason and summer if you plan on being any good.” — Andrea Joyce girls coach