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Chiefs frigid from the field in losing 2-A opener to Lusk
Wyoming Indian's Joseph Howell tangled with Travis Smith of Lusk on a rebound Thursday afternoon at Casper College in the opening round of the Class 2-A state tournament. Photo by Randy Tucker.

Chiefs frigid from the field in losing 2-A opener to Lusk

Mar 1, 2013 - By Randy Tucker, Sports Writer

It's been a long time since anyone held the Wyoming Indian Chiefs to just 40 points in a varsity boys basketball game. Lusk had the magic Thursday afternoon at Casper College, however, and the Tigers took care of the Chiefs 51-40 to advance to the Class 2-A state semifinals Friday night in the Casper Events Center. The Tigers face Big Horn, while Wyoming Indian played Southwest 2-A opponent Big Piney in loser-out action Friday afternoon on the Events Center floor

Anyone familiar with Wyoming Indian basketball would not have recognized the Chiefs Thursday afternoon. One play was indicative of the entire game performance of the seven-time state champs.

With just 29 seconds left in the game, Lusk's Kevin Christianson was fouled. Officials and the courtside announcer both said "one on one" clearly. Christianson missed his first attempt, and everyone froze as if he had another shot. The ball bounced on the floor, Christianson realized it was live, scooped it up, and hit a following shot to lift the Tigers to a 49-40 lead.

Shooting just 27 percent from the floor is a recipe for disaster. No matter how well you play defense its difficult to win when you miss nearly three out of every four shots you take. The Chiefs were cold to start the game and didn't heat up. On the game, Wyoming Indian hit just 17 of 61 attempts from the floor.

The opening period was glacially slow, as the Chiefs scored a season-low five points. Lusk managed just nine.

The Chiefs opened the second period with back-to-back baskets from Wilson Clifford to tie the game at nine.

The rally was a brief one, and Lusk regained the lead on short-range shots from Travis Smith and Hunter Dockery to build an 18-13 advantage. Clifford and Tristan Gardner hit transition baskets to close the game to a single point with 2:31 left in the half, but Dockery hit a trey and a follow shot to rebuild the lead to six. Gardner drained a 3-pointer with 1:14 left in the half, and the Tigers held on to a precarious three point lead at the break.

Smith and Dockery scored quickly to lead the Tigers on an 8-2 run to open the third, and Lusk's lead was in double-digits 33-22. Wyoming Indian head coach Craig Ferris called timeout, and the Chiefs got back into contention on 9-2 run of their own. An Alvin Spoonhunter trey with 31 seconds left in the third closed the game to 35-31.

Gardner hit his second trey, and a dazzling baseline drive by Wilson Clifford tied the game a final time at 37 with 6:43 left in the game.

The final six minutes was a nightmare for the Chiefs. Lusk outscored Wyoming Indian 14-3 down the stretch.

Wyoming Indian turned the ball over five times in the last four minutes as Lusk sagged in its half-court, man-to-man defense to collapse the passing lanes. Each time the Chiefs turned over the ball, the Tigers ran a deliberate offense that ended with layups from Smith, Dockery or Christianson.

Lusk scored the final six points of the game.

WYOMING INDIAN 5 15 11 9 -- 40

NIOBRARA COUNTY 9 16 12 14 - 51

Wyoming Indian - Noah Valdez 1-2 1, Tristan Gardner 1 (2) 0-0 8, Wilson Clifford 5 1-2 11, Joseph Howell 1 1-2 3, Alvin Spoonhunter 3 (1) 0-0 9, Trevor Williamson 4 0-3 8. Totals 14 (3) 3-9 40.

Niobrara County - Matthew VandeBossche 5 0-2 10, Travis Smith 4 1-2 9, Denton Shaw 2 1-4 5, Hunter Dockery 7 (1) 0-1 17, Kevin Christianson 2 2-3 6, Derick VandeBossche 2 0-0 4. Totals 21 (2) 3-8 51.

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