Ethan Salzman gets in front of a Rattlers guard last Saturday in Shoshoni.

The Meeteetse Longhorns boys basketball team didn’t quite have the lineup they were expecting heading into the Wrangler Invitational over the weekend, but, even with the shakeup to the starting five, managed to pull out a win in three games in Shoshoni.

The Longhorns beat Hanna-Elk Mountain 47-31 on Friday, fell to Little Snake River 43-42 on Saturday morning and fell to 2A Shoshoni 56-42 on Saturday afternoon.

With senior standout Kalvin Erickson sidelined with an off the court injury and emerging guard Ethan Salzman still nursing an injury from the opening game of the season, the ’Horns still managed to jump on HEM early as Mickle Ogden made his return to the lineup for the first time this season, and junior guard Kiernan Ehrhart-Mukiibi looked comfortable in a starting role in place of Salzman.

Ogden connect on a long field goal to put the ’Horns up 6-1 to start things out Friday morning on his way to a 15-point effort, 10 rebound effort.

Dace Bennett followed another Ogden bucket with a deep 3 pointer to put Meeteetse up 11-3 moments later and the ’Horns were rolling with an 11-3 lead.

“For Mickle playing his first game of the year I thought he played really well,” coach Zeb Hagen said.“We got the ball in different guys’ hands. We weren’t up to the end-of-the-year standards, but we were attacking the basket and defended pretty well.”

After a foul and a technical foul on the Miners, Bennett connected on all four free throws to stretch the lead to 17-8 early in the second quarter. He finished with 11 points, five rebounds and six assists.

A Joe Pina jumper put the Longhorns ahead 21-8, and by the time the buzzer sounded to end the first half the Longhorns had built a comfortable 29-12 halftime lead.

Jonathan Blessing got the ’Horns on the board in the third quarter on a feed from Bennett to make it 31-14 Horns, and Ehrhart-Mukiibi helped keep the Miners at bay with a transition bucket as the Horns found success running the floor. He finished with 10 points and two rebounds.

The Miners made a mini-run in the fourth quarter and got to within 13 with 2 minutes remaining, but Meeteetse did just enough at the line to kill any suspense of a comeback.

Blessing finished with four points and five rebounds in the win. Pina added four points and six steals. Jason Moody had a point and five boards and Jayson Erickson hauled in three rebounds and dished out an assist.

Salzman made his return against Little Snake River on Saturday morning and hit four shots from deep on his way to a 14-point outing in a contest that was as tight as the score would indicate.

“I think we got out to an 8-0 lead and a fast start, but Little Snake is resilient,” Hagen said. “They did a good job of getting good shots and it came down to just a back and forth, physical game.”

Ogden added another solid performance with nine points and 10 rebounds. Bennett finished with nine points, seven boards and eight assists.

“We had a chance to win it at the end and had a decent look, it just didn’t go in,” Hagen said. “We had a few more turnovers in that game than we would like and that maybe played a role in it at the end.”

In the rebound game against an big, athletic Shoshoni squad, Bennett knocked down a trey to get the ’Horns the lead at 10-9 with 2 minutes to go in the first quarter, and an Ehrart-Mukiibi shot from deep made it 15-14 Wranglers heading into the second frame.

The Wranglers continually slashed to the basket and launched shots from deep to get small leads, but the ’Horns usually had an answer.

Salzman drilled a 3 at the 5:40 mark of the second to make it 20-19 Wranglers and Erhart-Mukiibi nailed another 3-pointer to tie things up at 22 apiece later in the frame.

Ogden hit a trey to tie things up at 25 each halfway through the second and hit another shot at the buzzer to keep things close at 31-29 at the break.

“We played a really good first half against Shoshoni,” Hagen said. “They play a similar defense to us, a matchup zone and really packed it in in the paint. In the second half I think we settled for outside shots instead of working the ball inside and kind of went cold in the second half.”

The Wranglers started to connect from deep in the third quarter and pounded it inside to take advantage of the size difference to stretch the lead to 48-34 heading into the fourth quarter, and the ’Horns couldn’t quite chip away enough at the big lead.

Ogden finished things off with a steal and a 3-pointer to bring Meeteetse to within 14 at the buzzer. He finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.

Bennett finished with 15 points, five boards and four assists. Ehrhart-Mukiibi added eight points and three assists. Salzman chipped in six points and four assists.

The Longhorns will look to get back to full strength over the Christmas break, and then return to action Jan. 7 when they host Riverside for a non-conference matchup.

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