Cowboys nipped by Longhorns; slip past Skiers
Chris Dickey                    Sophomore Hunter Wood gets fouled while taking the ball to the hoop in GHS’ nail-biting loss against Basalt last Friday.
Chris Dickey Sophomore Hunter Wood gets fouled while taking the ball to the hoop in GHS’ nail-biting loss against Basalt last Friday.

Chris Dickey

Times Publisher

GHS Boys Basketball —

Wins have been hard to come by this season for Gunnison High’s varsity boys basketball team. That’s not to say they haven’t been close.

“We are well schooled in the art of heart-breakers this year,” head coach Matt Smith acknowledged.

Another one of those close calls occured Friday night in Basalt, where the Cowboys squandered a double-digit lead in the third quarter to lose to the Longhorns 50-47.

GHS appeared headed toward a similar fate Saturday afternoon against Aspen. A pesky and much-improved Skier squad wouldn’t go away, even having possession of the ball with the game tied and only a handful of seconds remaining on the clock.

This time, however, Hunter Wood took the Cowboys on his back. The sophomore transfer student from Arkansas capped an incredible game with a lastminute steal and the game-winning free throws with 4.5 seconds remaining, giving GHS the win 48-46.

Wood finished the game with 27 points, including going 10-of-11 from the free throw line. Making the feat even more impressive was the fact that just hours before tip-off the Wood family was dealt the blow that the great-grandmother of Hunter and his little brother Braden (a stand-out on the Cowboy JV squad) had passed away back in Arkansas.

“That was a special experience to watch Hunter,” coach Smith said. “He’d had a tough day, and he could have checked out. Instead he got really gritty for us and he just determined that he wasn’t going to let us lose the game.”

Only four other Cowboys lit the scoreboard against Aspen, with Caleb Hulbert notching eight points, Adam Engleman six, Lane Bacialli four and Aiden Hulbert three.

The Cowboys built a ninepoint lead at halftime against Basalt and came out strong in the third quarter, scoring 15 points and maintaining that cushion heading into fourth. The final stanza was their demise, however, when they were outscored 17-5.

Smith accepted “a lot of the blame” for the loss, saying that his team had built its lead by being aggressive and indicating that they’d lost that edge when he instructed them to melt some time off the clock.

Freshman Braden Wood, after dropping 22 in the JV game earlier in the day, paced the Cowboys with 14 points, followed by Caleb Hulbert with 12, Hunter Wood’s nine, Engleman’s six, Baccialli’s four and Braulio Davalos’ lone bucket.

The Cowboys are entering the home stretch of their season, beginning this weekend when they host Delta and Cedaredge. Delta hammered the Cowboys in a match-up a couple of weeks ago.

“It’s a long season and it’s not easy to buy into the process,” coach Smith said. “But I’m super proud of these guys. Some are learning important lessons about what it takes to stick with it. I have a lot of confidence we can be really good coming down the backstretch of this season.”

(Chris Dickey can be reached at 970.641.1414 or publisher@gunnisontimes.com.)