Zane Phelps fell to the floor clutching his previously lacerated right eye. It signaled a second-half rally from his team.
The Bayfield Wolverines trailed the Alamosa Mean Moose by almost double digits in the third quarter when Phelps hit the wood floor underneath his own basket. He came up angrily revealing a cut under his right eye in the same place he had just had stitches removed from a day earlier.
Heading to the bench in agony, Phelps slapped his seat on the bench and let out a roar of frustration. It awoke the Wolverines (11-8, 5-3 Intermountain League), who recovered to earn a key 47-44 victory against the Mean Moose (10-9, 4-4 IML).
“Throughout the season, everybody goes through injuries and sickness and all kinds of problems. Kids always have to step up, and they did,” Bayfield head coach Randy Stephens said. “It was obviously tough for Zane to have to sit and watch, but kids stepped up and made a difference in the game.”
One of those players was Geoff Pope, who scored all of his team-high 17 points in the second half. Pope shot 4-for-5 from the field and 1-for-2 from behind the 3-point line in the second half to lead the charge.
“It was kind of a shocker to see Zane have that happen to his eye again. We were all kind of bummed, but we kept the energy high. We wanted to win the game no matter what happened,” said Pope, the son of Greg and Julie Pope. “Seeing him go down motivated us to get on our feet and get down the court. The energy was way high.”
Bayfield came up with big rebounds late, eventually winning the rebounding battle 29-28.
Dillon Hoselton came up with all nine of his points in the second half to help Pope and the Wolverines’ comeback.
Trevor Gabbard scored only one point all night, but it was a big one. He hit 1-of-2 free throws with less than 10 seconds left to put the Wolverines up by three points, which forced Alamosa into taking a tough 3-point shot at the buzzer.
That shot fell short.
“You can’t single out anybody. It was a great team effort by everybody,” Stephens said. “People made big plays in different situations, and the overall contribution was enough to get the job done. It is nice to see the team come through when we really needed it.”
The game was tied 33-33 going into the fourth quarter. Alamosa hit 7-of-8 free throws in the fourth quarter after quickly getting in the bonus, but the Mean Moose couldn’t finish their shots as they went 1-for-6 from the field in the final eight minutes.
Alamosa was led by Clayton Brubacher’s 19 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 shooting from behind the 3-point line.
Alamosa had sizeable leads in the first half and early in the third quarter despite shooting just 10-of-36 from the field. Calls started going Bayfield’s way, and they rode the momentum to the final whistle.
The win gave Bayfield a perfect 6-0 regular season in home games, but it will be the last home game this year for the Wolverines. Bayfield will hit the road next week to face Monte Vista (13-6, 5-3 IML) in the league tournament. Monte Vista won the right to host that game by winning the head-to-head point differential tiebreaker by nine points.
The Wolverines are excited for that game, and Stephens said Phelps will be back and ready to play.
“We feel good about where we are standing, and we have played some good basketball coming down the stretch,” Stephens said. “We are going to be on Monte Vista’s floor, and that is fine. We want another shot at them. We need to step up and get the job done.”
Pope said his team can ride the momentum of Thursday night’s win into the league tournament.
“We are pumped. We had a tough loss last time against Monte Vista. We will come out with a lot of energy and come out and get a win,” he said.