Exciting wins typically consist of buzzer beaters or great shooting from behind the 3-point line. But when the tempo of the game limits an offense, sometimes the only way to get the win is by executing the little things, knocking down free throws for example.
Thursday night in the District 9C boys semifinal contest, the Big Sandy Pioneers utilized free-throw points to get the win over the Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds.
Big Sandy won 73-59. The Pioneers (13-6) will now face the top-ranked Box Elder Bears (16-3) in Saturday’s championship. The Thunderbirds (10-10) will drop into the loser-out bracket and face Turner (4-15) tonight at 7:30 p.m.
HLP played a very physical game defensively, trying to slow down the Pioneer scorers. But with their up-tempo, and physical style came a lot of fouls. The Pioneers went to the charity stripe 25 times in the first half and 46 times in the contest. The 46 shots from the free-throw-line outdid the total field goal attempts at 45. Big Sandy shot 68 percent from the line in the first half and 57 percent in the second, as the T-Birds racked up 34 personal fouls. But the Pioneers also totaled 19 fouls, a dangerous amount for a roster that lacks depth. Trevor Lackner, Kaden Beck, and Jerry Hanson, all starters, had to sit extensive minutes after getting into foul trouble.
“They have done that to us before,” Big Sandy head coach Roy Lackner said. “You just have to weather the storm and not get caught up in the fouling. That is what hurts us, and we did get into some foul trouble in that first half. But we had to play hard and smart, and I don’t think we hit as many free throws as we could have. But we stayed focused and you have to handle that contact.”
But the Pioneers overcame the fouling frenzy and did enough to gain too much ground for the T-Birds to overcome.
Big Sandy led 29-19 after the first quarter and 47-35 at the half. The Pioneers didn’t completely rely on free throws, as they did outscore the T-Birds 11-7 in the third frame to maintain their lead, 58-42. Big Sandy scored just two points from the free-throw-line in the third, but Zac Leader knocked a trey and a two-point field goal to keep the Big Sandy offense productive.
Trevor Lackner led the Pioneers with 18 points, while Leader added 16, and Hanson added 13. Jessey Bailey also scored 11, while the Pioneers also managed to knock down eight three’s in the midst of the free throws. Hanson had two, Lackner had two, Leader had one, and Bailey had three.
“It will be nice to play in the 9C championship game every year of my high school career,” Trevor Lackner said. “But free throws were crucial for us. In a game like this, free throws take the place of the shot you would get, so we had to hit those.”
The Thunderbirds hit just 5-of-19 from the line. They also committed 19 turnovers and shot just under 36 percent from the field, as the offense just never got rolling. Jeff Sorrell had another big game with 20 points, but got little help. Sterling Whitecow fouled out and had just eight points, while Marvin Cole finished with seven.
“We just kept pushing the ball up the floor and that limited them,” Coach Lackner said. “They couldn’t keep up with us so they either had to give us baskets or keep fouling, and that works for us either way.”
Now in Saturday night’s 7:30 p.m. chipper, the Pioneers know they have another battle ahead of them in a very good Box Elder squad. The Bears can do a little bit of everything on offense and defense, but if the Pioneers execute their game plan, Lackner thinks they may have the recipe for success.
“To win,” Coach Lackner said. “We must contest their three’s. We also have to take the ball inside against Box Elder. We can’t let them run around like they did today (Thursday), we have to put pressure on the basket and we need to play smart We aren’t going to slow down our play, so we are going to run and going to press.”
Big Sandy 73, Hays-Lodge Pole 59 (SF)
Big Sandy 29 18 11 15 – 73
Hays-Lodge Pole 19 16 7 17 – 59
Big Sandy – Jerry Hanson 13, Bryant Jones 1, Halsten Beck 2, Lawrence Allderdice 1, Trevor Lackner 18, Kaden Beck 6, Zac Leader 16, Kyle Strutz 5, Jessey Bailey 11. Totals: 18-45 29-46 73
HLP – Nate Doney 2, Jeff Sorrell 20, Marvin Cole 7, Gage Essert 6, Darnell Parisian 4, Sterling Whitecow 8, Codie Kirkaldie 2, Keenan Stiffarm 4, Jalen Brockie 6. Totals: 24-67 5-19 59.
Halftime: Big Sandy 47-35. 3-pointers: Big Sandy 8-16 (Hanson 2, Lackner 2, Leader 1, Bailey 3), Hays-Lodge Pole 6-18 (Cole 1, Essert 2, Parisian 1, Whitecow 2). Rebounds: Big Sandy 35 (Leader 11, Bailey 7), Hays-Lodge Pole 48 (Brockie 11, Sorrell 9, Doney 8). Fouls: Big Sandy 19, Hays-Lodge Pole 34. Fouled out: Whitecow.