BUENA VISTA - Bayfield finished a bizarre weekend at the 2017 Buena Vista Demon Invitational trailing unbeaten Sterling 47-35 through three quarters and ultimately by a 58-46 margin.
Playing to the event's final whistle, however, McKay Wells flipped in a reverse layup with fewer than five seconds remaining for the game's final points. This was an appropriate ending; the previous afternoon inside Christian Academy's gym, he'd taken an entry pass in the paint and lofted a successful eight-foot runner over a Salida defender to trip the Spartans 44-42.
Converted shortly after senior Dax Snooks had buried a tying three-pointer off the opposite, far-side wing, the clutch baskets left head coach Jeff Lehnus feeling somewhat relieved, but still concerned regarding the next afternoon's matchup against the #1-ranked Tigers.
"They've got their first win under their belt," Lehnus said as he headed towards #9-ranked BHS' locker room, "and that's always a good thing, at least."
It had started out looking like a truly great 'thing,' with Bayfield sprinting out to an 18-8 lead through the initial eight minutes last Friday against Salida, with junior Hayden Farmer getting things going with a three-ball on his first shot of the 2017-18 season. Senior Dawson Heide chipped in five late points and junior Keyon Prior capped the quarter with a 16-footer as time expired.
Farmer began the second stanza against Salida with another three, then fed Prior nicely for a transition bucket the next trip downcourt, but behind senior guard Sam Tameler, the Spartans began a comeback which would eventually put them ahead for the first time, 34-33, with 4:15 remaining in the game.
Testing his still-healing ankle, Farmer responded with another trey, but SHS tied with a Griffin Ferguson layup and regained the lead when junior Shade Hadley cleaned up an offensive rebound.
Inactive for the previous weekend's two-day Herman Schayes Memorial at Englewood Kent Denver, Farmer totaled a game-best 13 points. Intentionally fouled on a dunk with 2:08 remaining, senior Ryan Phelps totaled nine points, but with Phelps needing a trainer's attention to his hand, the free throws resulting from Eli Smith's foul went to senior Carl Heide, who made one of two, giving the Wolverines a short-lived 39-38 lead.
Snooks and Prior each totaled six points in the win.
Looking to recreate their high-energy start the next afternoon in Buena Vista, Bayfield encountered a Sterling side just as eager to do something similar, and 6'8" Bodie Hume drained three-pointers with his first two shots. Prior drove inside to counter the first, however, and Farmer answered Hume's second with a three of his own.
But despite a crowd-awakening two-hand jam, Phelps was called for two quick fouls and had to take a seat. That allowed the Tigers to expand a slim 9-7 advantage to 19-7 before Carl Heide knocked down a three just before the buzzer.
With BHS down 19-10, Farmer began the second quarter converting a hard take to the hoop, only to see Hume's backup, 6'8" Jason Pittman, answer inside at the other end.
Farmer re-answered with a three, but Hume struck back with one from downtown. He'd later sink his fourth trey en route to finishing the quarter with 11 points, and the first half with 20 en route to a game-best 30.
Meanwhile, Prior converted a three-point play with 4:48 left before halftime, but the Wolverines would find themselves down 38-25 at intermission after both Phelps and Prior each picked up a third personal foul.
Sterling's lead maxed out at 47-33 with 1:54 left in the third. Even with Hume benched by his third personal foul, Bayfield couldn't build upon Phelps' eight points in the quarter and went into the home stretch down by a dozen.
"I definitely had a thought in my mind that Bayfield whupped us when they came down for football," Hume said, recalling last fall's home loss in the Class 2A State Football Playoffs' quarterfinals. "So we wanted a little payback in basketball."
Before fouling out with 15.3 seconds left, Phelps totaled 12 points to lead the Wolverines and Farmer finished with 10. Prior registered eight before he fouled out with 1:32 remaining, and Carl Heide managed seven.
Bayfield (1-3, 0-0 Intermountain) will next host 2A San Juan High School of Blanding, Utah at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 15.
And then, unafraid to battle the classification's best, BHS will travel out to Colorado Springs Christian for a 3 p.m. start on Saturday. The Lions will be the Wolverines' third opponent ranked in the preseason CHSAANow.com Class 3A top 10 in the season's first three weekends. They are third-ranked Kent Denver, top-ranked Sterling, CSCS, which is ranked sixth.