Northern Wyoming News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Alex Kuhn
Sports Editor 

Three's-and-D

No. 4 Warriors use defense and 3-point barrage to down Cody 83-57

 

January 8, 2019

DAILY NEWS/ Alex Kuhn

Warriors Rudy Sanford (left) and Rylan Mocko (right) contest the shot of Cody's Coy Novakovich during Worland's 83-57 win over the Broncs Saturday at Worland High School.

WORLAND - Defense and 3-pointers helped power the Worland Warriors to an 83-57 victory over the 4A Cody Broncs Saturday at Worland High School. The interclass boys basketball matchup between the former 3A rivals had its fair share of excitement and after a slow start, the Warriors kept their foot on the pedal until the final seconds.

"Our starting five play really, really well together. The trick has been trying to get them on the floor for most of the game. There have been a lot of times, because of foul trouble, injury or illness, where we haven't had that good fortune. When we played those five together it looked really well, and I think our bench got some good confidence in the fourth quarter with the way they were able to play, defend and take care of the ball," said WHS boys basketball coach Aaron Abel. "For us, offense is going to be something that we naturally do fairly well. It's going to be about what we do defensively."

The Broncs (1-5) used a zone defense that they hadn't shown before on film that caused 3A's No. 4-ranked Warriors (3-2) some troubles. Also starting the game Abel had senior Porter Harman guarding the Broncs and 4A's leading scorer Elijah Leyva (25.3 points per game).

After a quick 10 points by Leyva and Cody holding a 10-5 lead with 4:48 remaining in the first quarter, Abel switched junior Luke Mortimer onto Leyva. Mortimer, being a longer defender, proved to be the difference as his long reach made things tough for Leyva.

"We were hoping that Porter with his endurance and cross-country background, he could keep Elijah from getting any catches. Elijah was still able to get those catches and he's going to make tough shots that's no problem for him. But with Luke we put the length on him and with a longer defender on him, that's where Luke had more success than Porter did early.

"Offensively, Cody went to a zone that we hadn't seen them use before that caused us fits. Once we settled into it and remembering what we need to do against zones we had more success," said Abel.

Foul trouble has plagued Mortimer in the early part of the season, often times forcing him to sit for long stretches. On Saturday, while drawing a tough matchup, Mortimer only had two fouls, both of which came in the fourth quarter.

Guarding Leyva also brought back memories for Mortimer when the two were teammates when Leyva attended WHS before moving to Cody last school year.

"It just brings back memories, we'd always battle and had a bit of a rivalry, it was nice to come out on top," said Mortimer. "I haven't been getting a lot of minutes because of foul trouble, but since I was able to defend without fouling I stayed on the court a lot [Saturday]."

With Mortimer making things tough for Leyva, the Cody offense slowed down considerably and in the second quarter, Worland made their move to grab the lead. Coming off the bench to start the game, senior guard Rylan Mocko got the game turned in Worland's favor with three straight steals that led to easy points, giving the Warriors their first lead at 24-20 in the second quarter.

From then on the Warriors never looked back as they took a 36-28 lead into halftime, then in the third quarter, they outscored Cody 30-14 to seize a commanding 66-42 advantage.

After the game, Mocko spoke about the importance of accepting your role, even through the adversity of having to come off the bench after being a starter.

"For a lot of players that's a super hard position to be in but whenever I had a negative thought on it I always thought of the [2018 Alabama vs. Georgia CFP National Championship game] when Jalen Hurts was having a bad game and got benched for Tua, who led them to the title. Jalen was always on the sideline rooting and helping Tua anyway he could.

"He's a D-I athlete and to have that happen it shows a lot, most championship teams guys are making sacrifices and I looked at this moment to see how much we can grow from this. And I really enjoyed it, and I loved that seeing our guys still gel together no matter the change and we still played together and fought for the win," he said.

As a team, the Warriors went 10 of 18 from the 3-point line, were 21 of 31 from inside the arc and had 15 assists on their 31 made baskets. Both Mocko and sophomore Rudy Sanford led the Warriors in scoring against Cody with 25 apiece. The 25 points for Mocko were a season-high and for Sanford, who is 3A's second-leading scorer, he scored just above his season average of 24.8 points per game.

The Warriors' other reserve players showed some promising flashes against Cody. Junior Devon Mercado came in and played his role as a 3-and-D player excellently, going 2/2 from 3-point range and playing strong defense.

"Devon is a fantastic bench player because he's always happy with his role. He's a great athlete and never tries to do too much. He's always a pretty even-keel kid and knows what he has to do to make us successful, and that's to defend and be a catch-and-shoot guy.

"Our bench it's just going to take time and minutes together because a lot of them are playing with guys they're unfamiliar playing with. It's a matter of doing what Devon does which is playing within his role and not doing too much," said Abel.

The Warriors will get plenty of basketball in this week with the Pinnacle Bank Big Horn Basin Classic boys basketball tournament being held at WHS and Hot Springs County High School Friday and Saturday. Before the Classic gets underway the Warriors host the 5-4 4A Green River Wolves at WHS at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

"It's going to be a fun weekend and we're in a stretch now where we get to play a bunch of games at home and that's going to be for the guys to play in front of their friends and family. Hopefully, the way we played tonight will keep more fans coming back and we can really start to pack this place," said Abel. "We have Green River Thursday and they're a really good 4A team and we're excited to have the opportunity to play them."

 
 

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