BIG HORN — By Friday evening, Cody Ball had nearly lost his voice from yelling.

It wasn’t negative shouting. He simply spent the afternoon relaying instructions to his Big Horn Rams and cheering them on against Shoshoni.

It could’ve easily been a down game. The Wranglers entered as the No. 5 team in the 2A, so they required Big Horn’s full attention. That could’ve been hard to give less than 24 hours before its cross-county rivalry game with Tongue River.

But Ball liked what he saw.

The Rams commanded the action from the first quarter through the fourth, winning 49-38 at Big Horn High School. Big Horn never went on a game-changing run or exploded on offense. It just outlasted Shoshoni.

“Us controlling the game from start to finish was a great thing to see,” Ball said. “We need momentum heading into conference season … If we lost that one, we would’ve had some deflated sails. But if we win it, now we have some high hopes and need to get on a roll.”

Ball emphasized playing a complete game all week after Big Horn lost to 1A Upton last Saturday. Instead of zeroing in on Shoshoni or Tongue River, the Rams didn’t do much opponent-specific prep work. They focused on themselves.

“I wanted to see them put together a four-quarter game,” Ball said. “Last week against Upton, who is a really good team, we put together two exceptional quarters and two bad quarters. Putting together four great quarters today was what we wanted to see, and that’s kind of what we had.”

The Wranglers scored the first two points of the game and held a 4-3 lead halfway through the first quarter. But once the Rams took a 5-4 lead with two Toby Schons free throws, they never trailed.

They led by four after the first quarter, eight at halftime and 13 heading into the fourth.

“In high school basketball, there are so many peaks and valleys,” Ball said. “It’s such a rollercoaster. If we can just go steady all the way up and continually build that lead, it’s a lot more comfortable.”

Senior Cade Butler paced Big Horn in points. He contributed a game-high 20. Six other Rams recorded at least one basket, but none joined Butler in double figures.

“I was just taking open shots,” Butler said. “My teammates trust me to have the ball in my hands. I was just doing what I can for my teammates and getting them their assists.”

Big Horn will host the Eagles at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Ball will need to restore his voice to full strength by then. The matchup is the first between the two teams since the Rams stunned Tongue River in overtime last February to end Tongue River’s season and send themselves to the state tournament. 

Since then, many of the Rams and Eagles (Butler, Cooper Garber, Garrett Ostler and Eli Cummins to name a few) played each other on the football field when the Eagles won the rivalry game for the first time in 15 years. Tongue River boys basketball crushed Wright 65-41 Friday.

“We have a chip on our shoulders,” Butler said, “and we’re ready.”

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