By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Team Ariat is certainly led by its captain Cooper Davis, but it is a quiet, soft-spoken 20-year-old from Mackay, Australia, that has been on fire in Division B at the Pendleton Whisky Let ‘Er Buck Saloon at South Point Arena.
Ky Hamilton has ridden five consecutive bulls at the Monster Energy Team Challenge, presented by U.S. Border Patrol, and his 2-for-2 performance Friday night helped Team Ariat defeat Team South Point 258.5-0 and clinch a playoff spot for Championship Weekend in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on July 10-12.
“Playoffs sound pretty damn good,” Hamilton told PBR.com late Friday night. “But we still got two more games before then. We just expected to come here and win. This is what we expect from ourselves. I sure am happy to do it, but at the same time, we all expect that from ourselves.
“This is something we expected, and we are doing it.”
In a matchup featuring the top two teams in the Division B standings at the start of the evening, it was all Team Ariat (4-0) with Hamilton and Davis once again leading the way.
Hamilton and Davis both received re-ride options in the first half, and Hamilton broke a 0-0 tie by riding Mortimer for 86.5 points.
Davis followed up with 87.75 points on Marquis Metal Works Draggin Up, and Ariat never looked back, with Hamilton also riding Sniper for 84.25 points in the second half.
Hamilton has three of Team Ariat’s four winning rides and is 5-for-8 since bucking off his first three bulls at the Monster Energy Team Challenge.
“I’m really proud of Ky,” Davis said. “He has pulled his weight and more. He’s a super great guy, too. He just keeps building off each ride and proving to himself and everyone how good he is. I’m really excited.”
Hamilton said he just needed that one ride to get things in motion last weekend, and everything else has since fallen into place in a domino effect.
“I guess when I finally got one rode, I just remember what it felt like to ride one in the middle and ride one properly,” Hamilton said. “I guess in this game you have to have a short memory and fix them mistakes and move forward. Like I said, getting to feel what it was like to ride one in the middle and ride one properly, now I just kept on doing what I know how to do.”
The No. 4-ranked bull rider in the PRCA standings only competed at two Global Cups for Team Australia before teaming up with Davis at the METC.
However, he has been living at PBR co-founder Cody Lambert’s ranch in Bowie, Texas, for almost two years now, and he has gotten on Team Ariat General Manager J.W. Hart’s bulls at Lambert’s before as well.
Hart admitted Friday that before the start of Division B play he was a little nervous seeing as Hamilton arrived in Las Vegas in a bit of a slump on the rodeo trail.
Hamilton eventually put those worries to rest, and Team Ariat now has quite the dynamic duo in Hamilton and Davis, who is 4-for-8 at the METC.
“I think Ky went rodeoing the week before (Division B started) and he bucked off three or four and came into Vegas on a down slump,” Hart said. “I was kind of worried there, but by those second set of games he was starting to pick the pace back up and look like himself.”
Team Ariat now turns its focus towards winning the Division B crown and earning a first-round bye for Championship Weekend in Sioux Falls.
The Top 3 teams in the Division B standings following Sunday’s competition qualify for Championship Weekend in Sioux Falls, which will take place at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in front of fans.
The top finishers in Division B will join Team Cooper Tires, Team Las Vegas and Team Can-Am in Sioux Falls in two weeks.
The Division B winner earns a first-round bye in Sioux Falls.
With or without a bye, Hart says his team will be ready to win every time they climb into the bucking chutes.
“We don’t care,” Hart said. “We are going to Vegas to win every game. We don’t care if they give us a bye or not. We are going to Sioux Falls looking to win every game. We don’t care if there is a bye or if we have to do an extra game. We are looking to win every game.”
Team Ariat takes on No. 4 Team Boot Barn (2-2) Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET live on CBS Sports Network and RidePass.
Hart is putting Tyler Bingham back into the lineup for Maverick Potter, but it will once again be on Davis and Hamilton to keep pushing Ariat forward.
Hamilton has drawn Get Shorty and Suspicious Minds, while Davis takes on Fist City and Check Mate.
Meanwhile, Team South Point (2-2, 589.75) struggled mightily in defeat, going 0-for-6, and falling to No. 3 in the Division B standings.
That has opened the door for Team Boot Barn (2-2, 509.50) to make a push for the playoffs, especially if Boot Barn can find a way to knock off Team Ariat Saturday night.
Team South Point General Manager Colby Yates said on RidePass he thought his team could go 6-for-6 on Friday night. Instead, it was the opposite.
Yates told his team after the game they have to shake it off and just come back stronger on Saturday.
“Just wipe it off,” Yates said on RidePass. “Don’t worry about it. Just like it never happened. You have to go back at this and dig in.”
Professional Bull Riders – Team Challenge – Game 30
Las Vegas, NV, 2020
Event Leaders (Round 1-Round 2-Event Aggregate-Event Points)
1. Ky Hamilton, 86.5-84.25-170.75
2. Cooper Davis, 87.75-0-87.75
Cody Nance, 0-0-0.00
Tyler Bingham, 0-0-0.00
Shane Proctor, 0-0-0.00
Maverick Potter, 0-0-0.00
Denton Fugate, 0-0-0.00
Aaron Pass, 0-0-0.00
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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