Dogies punch their ticket

By: 
Sonja Karp

Peyton Tystad came off the bench to provide a valuable defensive spark against the top-seeded Rawlins Outlaws in the game that qualified the Dogies for State on Saturday. (Photo by Bob Bonnar/NLJ)

Sonja Karp

NLJ Sports Reporter

 

The 3A East Regional Basketball Tournament is always exciting, and this year it lived up to the hype as at least six legitimate teams battled for a place among the top four.

From Thursday through Saturday, hoops fans were treated to some exciting contests, some upsets, and some nail-biter finishes in Wheatland. The Newcastle Dogies found themselves in the midst of each of these
types of games as they fought their way to the State Tournament for the second consecutive year.

“We knew it would be a dog fight because 3A East is stacked with teams who had a legitimate shot at making it to State,” head coach Allen Von Eye declared. “We also knew we were in that mix, and if we played like we could we would be extending our season another week.”

The Dogies, who were seeded third in the Northeast Quadrant, began their quest against the Torrington Trailblazers, the second seed from the Southeast. Over the course of the regular season, these two teams had split with each claiming victory on their home court.

“We were looking forward to seeing Torrington to start, because we match up very well with them,” Von Eye stated. “But they played very well on Thursday, with the Malm kid playing one of his best games against us all year. Early on, our defensive rotation wasn’t where it was supposed to be and they made us pay for it.”

The two teams battled hard the entire contest, with each of the first three quarters ending with only a 1-2 point differential in the score. Unfortunately, the Trailblazers were able to put up five more points than Newcastle in the final frame to take the 61-55 victory and move on to the semifinal game, while the Dogies were left facing the loser-out contest on Friday.

“We were attacking and doing some good things, but then we got in a lull during the third quarter where we seemed to have gotten comfortable,” Von Eye explained. “That lull killed us, and then we were in survivor mode, which is never where you want to be.”

But there the Dogies were, tipping off against the Burns Broncs on Friday morning and fighting to live another day.

“We stressed all morning that we had to start fast, and we needed to attack,” Von Eye nodded. “We did just that, putting up a quick seven points to their nothing.”

The Dogies left little doubt that they were the better squad as they cruised to a 67-38 win over the fourth seeded Broncs to advance to their second loser-out matchup on Saturday against the Outlaws of Rawlins, who enjoyed the number one seed from the Southeast.

That Newcastle was facing Rawlins was one of the upsets of the tournament, given the third seeded Wheatland Bulldogs had defeated the higher ranked team in
overtime during the semifinals on Friday. Von Eye admitted that he and his crew had been rooting for the Outlaws to win, but emphasized that
the outcome didn’t set his team back.

“I’m going to be 100 percent honest, I was hoping to see Wheatland on Saturday, because I thought we matched up better against them, but we didn’t get that,” he declared. “We got to the hotel after watching the semifinal game and I told the kids they had 15 minutes to get what they needed done before lights out because we were going to have a walk through at 9:00 in the morning.”

“Ten minutes later, I came out and saw doors propped open, but I didn’t hear anything. I poked my head into each of the rooms and they were all empty except the final room,” he continued. “The whole team was there watching our game film with Rawlins from earlier this year. They were critiquing it and talking their way through it, analyzing it, and that told me they were focused and knew what they needed to do.”

The Dogies carried that focus into the do-or-die game on Saturday afternoon and came out as the aggressors from the tip, both offensively and defensively. 

“We wanted to be physical, and we threw our three-quarter court press on them, which bugged the heck out of them,” Von Eye grinned. “Dylon [Tidyman] did such a good job up front in that, and it’s our one piece that is a matchup component in our defense and I think we played it textbook. It was really pretty to watch us play that.”

Despite the fact that the Dogies were missing their inside man, Sawyer Roberson, Tidyman stepped in and successfully made the Outlaws’ 6’5” post presence a non-factor by taking him out of the game.

“Dylon was a wreck defensively throughout the whole ballgame. Those hands are so fast, they didn’t know where he’d be and they
couldn’t figure him out,” Von Eye exclaimed. “Pixler was frustrated by his defense so much so that he only scored one bucket and a free throw the entire game.”

Three Dogies scored in double digits - Tidyman with 18, Cade Ostenson with 15 and Dylan Talley with 14 - while Isaiah Brooks chipped in eight. This balanced offensive attack was what was needed to give Newcastle the 57-47 win over the Outlaws. 

In securing the victory, the Dogies punched their ticket to the State tournament, and the only question remaining to be answered was whether they would go into it as the third or fourth seed from the East.

With only a game to rest before facing off, once again against the Torrington Trailblazers, Von Eye’s crew gathered themselves for another battle, but this time it would be on tired legs.

“We went into the locker room and we determined we weren’t going to be that team that just settles for making it to state,” Von Eye began. “We wanted to get the best seeding we could for the tournament, so that meant we needed to come out and play hard.”

The Dogies did just that, and like the first game of the tournament, the game was a tight one that went back and forth between the two evenly matched teams. At the end of the third quarter Torrington held a 45-39 point lead, but the Dogies battled back to tie it late. Unfortunately, the Blazers managed to hit a questionable buzzer beater shot to edge out Newcastle 58-56.

“Realistically, I don’t see how we lose with 1.8 seconds left on the clock and they get the ball having to go the length of the floor and get two shots off,” Von Eye chuckled. “There may have been a little bit of a lapse on the part of the clock operator, but it is what it is.”

As the fourth seed from the East the Dogies will take on the Lander Tigers, who earned the first seed from the West, to start the State Tournament. The game is scheduled for a 9:00 p.m. start on Thursday.

“Lander is probably the most complete basketball team in all of 3A,” Von Eye analyzed. “They have everything you could ever ask for — they go nine deep, every kid they put on the floor is a shooter, they have the most athletic big in all of the state in a 6’5” athlete who jumps out of the gym. We’ll give it everything we have to make it to the semifinals on Friday and it will be a good battle for us, which will be fun.”

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