Going from "Shock Squad" to shocked squad, the Wolverine boys unfortunately discovered the magic of the Class 3A State Basketball Tournament's initial No. 28 seeding could also be used for evil
BHS had wielded the lucky seeding only two years ago in placing sixth out of the 32 qualifying teams.
And despite junior center/forward Ryan Phelps' 32 points, #5 Bayfield trailed visiting Delta by four points after one quarter, by an unexpected 11 through two, and by an inconceivable 20 after three before ultimately losing 78-75 last Friday night in the postseason's opening Round-of-32.
"We just got a little bit of a flow going," said Phelps, of the team's inspiring - though unsuccessful - late rally after Delta's lead grew to 65-43 early in the final frame.
"We knew we couldn't really stop theirs; they couldn't miss tonight, so props to them on that. But we finally got something going and it started rolling."
But after the Panthers' plan for a lengthy inbounds pass to the far end of BHS Gymnasium failed, without a green jersey so much as touching the ball to activate the clock and waste the final couple seconds, the Wolverines' last hope to tie, with 0:00.2 remaining, was an inbounds lob to a pre-elevated Phelps for a forceful tip towards the rim from behind the three-point arc-was slightly off-line as the buzzer sounded.
"You know, it was amazing," exhausted Delta junior guard Logan Freed said. "We've been working hard all season to be at this point, and we just hope that we can come out tomorrow and get another win."
That also did not come to pass.
Following up on a close 52-44 win over 21-seed Rye in the preceding first-round contest, #12 Alamosa-whom Bayfield had edged in the Intermountain League sides' last two encounters, and who most expected to be facing Bayfield on Day 2-clinched the "Great Eight" berth and denied the Panthers' second upset bid, 50-38.
"We knew they fast break a lot, and we wanted to stop that," said Phelps. "But we didn't stop that at the beginning, and that's what killed us."
To wit, a Freed take immediately countered Phelps' three late in the first quarter, giving the guests a 16-12 lead after eight minutes. Freed and senior Beau Byers then struck with runners in the lane after BHS junior Dax Snooks sank a three to pull the Wolverines (15-7 overall) back to 21-19 with 5:02 left before halftime.
Consecutive triples by Byers, junior Jaspar Carmichael and senior Blake Reiher would later increase the Panthers' advantage to 38-27. And after Phelps powered inside for a basket and possible momentum-building three-point play (his free throw was unsuccessful) with only 0:28.7 left, Carmichael converted a close-range shot in reply for a 40-29 lead at the midway mark.
Back-to-back Freed buckets forced BHS head coach Jeff Lehnus to burn a timeout down 44-31 early in the third, but Delta's penetrating attack stayed strong and produced two-pointers by sophomore Jonathan Robinson, Freed, sophomore Joe Bules and Byers in short order. A Carmichael three capped the Panthers' 21-point quarter, and put Bayfield down 61-41 with only eight minutes possibly remaining in their already-special season.
And with their collective back against the wall, the Wolverines made all eight minutes count.
Struggling with his outside shot for most of the night, sophomore forward Hayden Farmer suddenly hit twice from deep and also added two free throws before fouling out with 1:45 remaining. Lone senior Brian Mashak cut his way to the hoop for six of his final eight purple-and-gold points.
Sophomore Keyon Prior's only trey trimmed Delta's lead down to 76-68, and he would soon sink three freebies in four tries after DHS' bench incurred a technical foul and Coach Von Mitchell, disputing the 'T,' then did likewise with 51.7 ticks left.
That closed the gap to 77-71, and Phelps' second-chance cleanup of a missed Snooks three would halve it to 78-75 with 13 seconds remaining. The revived venue's volume was appropriately deafening - the sort of sound Bayfield had definitely wanted to generate much earlier.
"It was just a team effort, and we couldn't get it done tonight," Phelps said.
Farmer finished with 13 points, Prior 11 (all in the second half) and Snooks seven. Junior McKay Wells' four in the fourth were BHS' only bench points, however, while Delta (final record 13-11) profited from its depth.
Substitute sophomore post Andrew Baier surprised all with seven first-quarter points and totaled 11. Reiher logged three, and Bules and Alex Fausto each chipped in two. Byers, meanwhile, led the regulars and all Panthers with his 22 points. Robinson netted nine, Carmichael eight and junior Dylan Hollenbeck five.
"We have some really skilled players on our team, and we really came together tonight," said Freed (16 points). "We work hard every day, don't take a day off. And Coach...scouts for us and we just do what he asks."
At the charity stripe, BHS went 18-of-25 (Phelps 9-13, Prior 6-8) while DHS finished just 7-of-17.
"We'll use this as motivation, and in the offseason all year it'll help us with everything - football, basketball, track...everything!" said Phelps. "We lose one senior, but we've got the same team coming back so we'll expect to make it a little further next year."