Indicating the sort of high-energy finish everyone inside BHS Gymnasium had to know was coming Wednesday, Bayfield sophomore guard Lincoln Williams opened the fourth-quarter scoring with an end-to-end sprint and finish.
It was the sort of emphatic scoring the Wolverines needed en route to a super-slim 76-74 victory, because visiting Dove Creek wasn’t going anywhere.
Senior Tanner Williams’ incredible off-balance, buzzer-beating three-pointer from the left wing brought the guests back to 53-52 after three quarters and proved that. And already having erased BHS’ 38-27 halftime lead to briefly pull even at 47-all, via junior Gage Buffington’s double-pump jumper with 1:13 left in the third, the Bulldogs were bent on finishing the job.
“To be honest, we knew that even though they’re 1A they’re ranked really high,” Bayfield head coach Scott Key said. “We knew that this was going to be a dogfight, a game that we needed to come out and set the tone.”
The Wolverines (7-8 overall, 1-5 3A/4A Intermountain) tried to do so during the first quarter. Senior guard/forward Lance Mazur began the game with one of his five total threes, and later sank another as he and senior center/forward Caden Wood combined for 12 of BHS’ 14 points in the period.
But even with Bayfield senior Jackson Queen stuffing DCHS senior standout Kade Hankins’ baseline jumper as the initial eight minutes evaporated, the Bulldogs – ranked No. 5 in the CHSAANow.com Class 1A poll and on an eight-game winning streak coming in – had established themselves.
Sophomore Sheldon Gardner and senior Kendall Gardner totaled 10 of the Bulldogs’ 13, and took some of the attention off teammates Williams and Hankins.
Wolverine senior reserve Noah Chamblee began the second stanza with a basket, and Mazur soon followed with his third triple, part of a 9-2 BHS burst that increased the home team’s lead to 23-15 with 6:11 until intermission. Aaron Hankins’ Bulldogs, however, were up to the challenge and rallied to as close as 33-27 via Tanner Williams’ first three-ball – giving him eight points in the quarter and 10 for the half.
Wood answered with a cleanup hoop inside, and Queen, coming in off back-to-back games of 26 points or more, rebuilt the Wolverines’ pad to the aforementioned 11 points with a three during the waning moments.
“I think they had a game plan to try to eliminate Jackson,” said Key, who alluded to the fact Queen had scored just five points before the break. “And our other key players all stepped up. It wasn’t a ‘single’ guy. I’d like to think that this was one of the best ‘team’-played games we’ve had.”
All eight Wolverines who stepped on the court logged at least two points – including senior reserve Silas Wilbourn, whose rebounding and interior presence proved vital in keeping the ’Dogs somewhat at bay. Seven of DCHS’ eight utilized players, however, also scored no fewer than four points apiece.
“We didn’t execute as well as I would have liked in the third,” Key said. “But we came back out and adjusted a couple things there in the fourth, got some quick buckets to retake the lead.”
Dove Creek (11-3, 4-0 2A/1A San Juan Basin) outscored BHS 25-15 in the third and seemed to have buckets in abundance as they overcame Bayfield’s 8-0 run to begin the final frame. DCHS wiped out a 61-52 deficit and equalized the game at 66 via an ominous Williams three from at least four feet behind the arc, and a shorter Hankins jumper.
Wood countered with an and-one, three-point play, but the Bulldogs finally took their first lead since early in the game when senior Cole Taber cashed a clutch 3-pointer, 71-70.
With 1:24 remaining, Wood struck back with a go-ahead basket inside. The Wolverines then got singular free throws from Wood (14 points) and Mazur (20) in forging ahead 75-71.
With fewer than 30 seconds left, Tanner Williams buried his fourth and last triple, but with 15 seconds left, Lincoln Williams managed to hit one of two free throws. Trailing 76-74, the ’Dogs managed to get the ball to Hankins at the top of the three-point arc but his shot attempt over a defender missed the rim.
A teammate somehow saved the ball from sailing out of play, but it went straight into Queen’s hands. With about a second left, he was instantly wrapped up as DCHS tried fouling to stop the clock. But before an official could blow his whistle, a brief scuffle behind the ball involving Wood – who may have taken umbrage to how hard Queen was squeezed – and Kendall Gardner developed as time expired.
No game time was re-added, and on a down note, the outcome became official.
Key said there might not have been an issue had BHS’ free-throw accuracy simply exceeded 12-of-21.
Tanner Williams totaled a game-high 25 points in defeat, Hankins logged 20 and Sheldon Gardner eight points, with only two during the second half. Kendall Gardner, who was ejected for his role in the short-lived dispute, and Buffington each totaled six points. Taber finished with five and senior Asher Nye four.
Queen finished with 17 points and Lincoln Williams 11, while senior Max Meyers and junior Devin Cundiff each scored five as the Wolverines notched a needed win before resuming IML work Friday at 3A No. 4 Centauri (12-3, 4-2).
“The kids like to make it exciting, for sure,” Key said. “We’re still growing, we’re still improving, still getting better.”
Dove Creek will next see action when they host 1A SJBLers Ouray on Friday.