Varsity Boys Go 2-1 in HPL Tourney, Bring Home 3rd Place Finish
Round 1: (5) Syracuse vs (4) Southwestern Heights
The Varsity boys opened the first round of the High Plains League Tournament as the 5th seed. The Bulldogs and the Mustangs met up earlier this season in a pre-Christmas Break matchup on December 20th in SWH. The Bulldogs lost the game by a score of 44-51. SWH got the coaches’ vote for the 4 seed at 3-5, while Syracuse received the 5 seed at 7-2. The ‘Dogs were seeking revenge while the ‘Stangs were looking to go 2-0 against Syracuse this season.
The first quarter was very slow from each side offensively. Luke Finlay (Sr.) scored the first points for Syracuse as he made both free throw attempts. From the start, it looked like another defensive battle. At the end of the first, Syracuse led 10-8.
After a quick SWH layup, the second quarter turned into the Kyler Keller (Fr.) and Luke Finlay show. Kyler hit back-to-back threes to kickstart the Bulldogs in the second. Luke then made two layups and was fouled on each. Finlay converted both one and-one attempts. Keller then made a free throw to push the lead even further. Syracuse scored 15 to SWH’s 8 to make the score 25-16 at the end of the half.
Each team came out of the break quickly and added two points each but was slowed down just as quick as neither team scored for three minutes. Keller hit yet another three-point bucket to end the offensive pause. The ‘Stangs then went on a 10-0 run to end the quarter with a small Syracuse lead at 30-28.
Cody Doze (Sr.) and Damian Ramirez (Sr.) both hit big threes to open the fourth for the Bulldogs to extend the lead but SWH was in bonus and made a few free throws to close the gap. With 2:36 left in the fourth, Syracuse only led by three at 38-35. With 52.7 seconds left in the fourth, the score was still 40-38 with the Bulldogs in the lead. The Bulldogs were then fouled and sent to the free-throw line and made both attempts. While there was not enough time to score twice, the ‘Stangs still attempted a three and made it at the buzzer. The game was over as Syracuse had won 42-41.
The Bulldogs were led in scoring by Keller’s 12 points and Finlay’s 10 points. They did, however, suffer from a rough shooting night as they were only 35% from the field. Syracuse would advance to the semifinals with an 8-2 record to face the (1) Lakin Broncs.
Semifinals: (5) Syracuse Bulldogs vs (1) Lakin Broncs
This was a huge game for many reasons. It was the first time Syracuse had a chance to advance to the HPL Championship Game since 2012. (1) Lakin was the obvious favorite as they came off an 84-53 victory over the Sublette Larks.
The Broncs started off hot and fast as they went on a 7-0 run to begin the game until Austin Plunkett (Jr.) made a layup and the free-throw off the and-one. Damian Ramirez (Sr.) then added two more points off of free-throws. The ‘Dogs then went on an 8-0 run of their own to take the lead. Lakin’s Hunter Davis (Jr.) made one free-throw to make it a one-point game. Jaren Luebbers (Jr.) then made an 11-footer to go up 15-12 to end the first quarter.
The second quarter was back and forth for a while but mostly from the Lakin offense as they scored 9 points to Syracuse’s 2 to begin the quarter. After that, both offenses splurged as there was lots of scoring from both ends of the floor. At the end of the half, Lakin led 28-30.
After a quick bucket from the Bulldogs to start the third quarter, Lakin then went on another 7-0 run. Syracuse failed to break Lakin’s press and failed to score. With 2:38 left in the 3rd, Lakin led 37-30. Lakin then added four more points until Cody Doze (Sr.) finally hit a three to end the 12-0 run. At the end of the third, Lakin was still in the lead with a score of 36-47.
Lakin started the fourth with an easy layup from Davis. Plunkett answered back with a layup of his own. However, the Broncs continued to find holes in the Bulldog defense as they led 46-55 with 4:08 left in the game. For a quick moment, it looked like the Bulldogs might be able to make a comeback but Lakin’s Servando Gonzalez (So.) made two layups and a free-throw to push the Bronc lead to 13. The Broncs won the game by a score of 50-68.
Lakin would advance to the Championship game to take on the (2) Meade Buffaloes. Austin led the ‘Dogs with 17 points but was no match for Hunter Davis’ 28 points. Syracuse would move to take on the (3) Cimarron Bluejays in the 3rd place game.
3rd Place: (5) Syracuse Bulldogs vs (3) Cimarron Bluejays
After Syracuse’s tough loss in the Semifinal game vs the (1) Lakin Broncs, they moved to the consolation side of the championship bracket to take on the (3) Cimarron Bluejays for third place in the HPL Basketball Tournament. Cimarron also suffered a loss in the semifinal game to the (2) Meade Buffaloes 61-70. The Bulldogs and the Bluejays matched up eight days before Championship Saturday in Syracuse where the ‘Dogs won in a double-overtime thriller by a score of 47-43.
The first quarter started off with a Bluejay score from one free-throw by Payton Marshall (Sr.). Austin Plunkett (Jr.) then took the early lead with two free-throws of his own. All of the Bulldogs’ points came off threes and free-throws in the first. Cimarron was able to keep it close as Syracuse was up 13-11 at the end of the first.
RJ Thomas (Sr.) and Nick Pfeifer (Sr.) started Cimarron off in the second as each banged threes. Luke Finlay (Sr.) then answered back with a three of his own. Finlay and Kyler Keller both hit threes to extend the lead to nine points. Cimarron then went on a 10-0 run until Luke was able to end it with two free-throws. Syracuse led 24-23 with 1:23 left in the second. Damian Ramirez (Sr.) added to the Bulldog lead with a layup to end the quarter. Syracuse was up 26-23 at the end of the first half. Finlay led the ‘Dogs in the first half with 13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block. Plunkett added 5 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds of his own. Pfiefer led the Bluejays with 8 points and Thomas added 5 points.
The Bulldogs opened the second half very quickly with a three from Keller, Plunkett layup, and a layup and free-throw from Finlay. Cimarron killed the 10-0 run by the Bulldogs with a timeout at 6:26 left in the third. The scoring splurge continued but this time the ‘Jays added in on the action. Syracuse led 42-32 with 2:27 left in the third. Cimarron then went on a 9-0 run until Plunkett made a 15-footer to go up three at the end of the third by a score of 44-41.
Keller was sent to the free-throw line and made both attempts to start the fourth. Andrew Ridenour (Jr.) then made a short bucket to shorten the gap. Free-throws began to separate the Bulldogs from the Bluejays until Cimarron got into bonus. Ridenour then added four free-throws and Jaden Smith (Sr.) made a layup. However, the Bulldogs continued to score. Free-throws from both Cody Doze (Sr.) and Thomas pushed each teams’ score up to two points. Syracuse had a three-possession lead at 60-53 with 29.2 left in the game. The ‘Dogs then added two more free-throws to win the game 63-52 to take third place in the HPL Basketball Tournament.
Austin led the ‘Dogs with 19 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. Luke followed closely with 18 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. Finishing out the double-digit scorers was Kyler as he had 10 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, and 2 steals. The Syracuse Bulldogs move to 9-3 on the season and prepare for their next matchup with the 4-7 Stanton County Trojans on Homecoming Night on Friday, January 31st in the Herndon Gymnasium in Syracuse.
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