The Braves had their closest test in several weeks as they needed some clutch free throws to pull away for a 40-32 victory in Lander last Friday.
“They are playing pretty well and yeah, we needed some shots down the stretch,” said head coach Tony Saras. “But I also thought we did a much better job on their big guy in the second half; we held him to just three points so I feel like we made some good adjustments.”
Lander’s big man, 6’ 7” Lucas Watkins led his team to a 10-7 first quarter lead, pacing them with ten first half points. However, the Braves countered with a few timely plays including a deep three-pointer and a split-second touch shot from Dalton Passey who had seven in the first two quarters.
The Braves and Tigers traded jabs in the third quarter before a close fourth quarter rally by Lander to close the gap to 32-30. Wyatt Shinaver and Kohl Battleson each hit two free throws in one-and-one situations as Star Valley closed the game on a 8-2 run.
The following day was a much more uptempo contest between Star Valley and homestanding Pinedale. After a 13-6 Braves lead after the first quarter, the crimson & gold exploded for 26 second quarter points led by Shinaver’s 19. It was a sign of things to come as he scored 22 in the second half for a school record 41 points. It’s the highest point total for a Star Valley player since Joel Gardner rolled up 39 against Basin High in the second game of the 1960-61 season. Shinaver’s total matched the entire Pinedale team in an 83-41 Braves victory.
“I’m just glad to see him shooting it well,” said Saras. “He’s a good player and it was good to see the ball go down for him.”
With the win over Lander combined with losses piling up for the Eagles against the Tigers and the Powell Panthers, the Braves have the chance to clamp down the 3A West regular season crown with a win on Friday night against the Eagles.
Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The team will host Mountain View on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
The Braves will wrap up the regular season next Thursday at home against the Jackson Broncs.