Hettinger native wins Wyoming coaching award

Hettinger native and head girls basketball coach for the Rocky Mountain Grizz recently was honored with one of the state’s top coaching awards.

Eric Honeyman (center) talks to his team during a timeout. Honeyman was recently named conference Coach of the Year in Wyoming. (Photo by Patti Carpenter)

By COLE BENZ | Record Editor
cbenz@countrymedia.net

Hettinger native and head girls basketball coach for the Rocky Mountain Grizz recently was honored with one of the state’s top coaching awards. Eric Honeyman, 2002 Hettinger High School graduate, was named the 2A Five Rivers Conference Coach of the Year, an award voted on by his fellow coaches.

“It was an honor, because there are a lot of good coaches in our region,” he said.

Honeyman was very humble when pressed about the award, and he was quick to credit his coaching staff, and the players he leads on the court.

“I have the best assistants in the world,” he said. “But the girls deserve it, it’s all on them, they had such a phenomenal season.”

Honeyman—a kindergarten teacher—moved  with his family to Cowley, Wyo. nine years ago. He didn’t coach his first year at the school but volunteered his second. The following season he was hired as an assistant when a spot opened up, a position he would have for the next two seasons before being promoted to head coach. This was his fourth year running the program.

The Grizz did have a phenomenal season.

After finishing last season 11-13, they won 19 games and loss only seven. That included an undefeated record on their home court.

The season was also about breaking streaks and making Grizz history. This year the Grizz beat a rival from Lovell, Wyo. (a neighboring school) for the first time in 13 years, they entered the regional tournament the No. 1 seed for the first time since 2002, they beat the No. 1-ranked team at the state tournament, and only lost to the eventual state champions during the season by three points in two games, while finishing with a conference record of 7-1.

“There were a lot of streaks that were ended this year,” Honeyman said.

The Grizz also made plenty of noise in the postseason. They made it to the regional finals for the first time since 2011, and advanced to the semifinals of the state tournament for the first time since 2002. During the state tournament they also beat the team that was ranked No. 1 all year.

After winning their first game at state they came within a two-point loss of advancing to the finals. But thanks to a last-second shot victory, the Griz took third place in their final game of the season, finishing highest at state in 17 years.

Honeyman credits their deep run this year to their experience. Last year the team carried no seniors, so the experience translated.

“I think that was the biggest jump for all of us he said,” he said.

Honeyman also said their motivation could stem from how their season ended last year.

“Last year we lost in a triple overtime game at regionals,” he said. “And I think it was kind of one of those turning points.”

He said they had their chances during that game, and that the players took it to heart and turned it into their motivation, because they know how close they came.

Along with the team’s successes this year, and Honeyman’s coaching accolade, the team also had four All-Conference players and two more receiving honorable mentions.

“It was a cool ride,” he said. “It was a good experience for the girls.”

Honeyman has a good feeling about the team next year. When pressed for his expectations, he stopped short of giving his ultimate prediction, but said his squad will be strong again. Out of 12 players to hit the court during varsity competition this season, nine players will be returning.

“We have some good kids, I think we’ll be good,” he said. “I think we’re coming back ready to go again, it’ll be good.”

Honeyman is the son of Dave Honeyman and Ted and Sheri Uecker.