With the likes of Blake Brumwell and Corbin Pearson highlighting the Big Sandy boys basketball roster, Saturday’s win wasn’t quite a Cinderella story. But with the odds stacked against the Pioneers, the win was impressive to say the least. Saturday night at RimRock Auto Arena in Billings, the Pioneers captured their first-ever Class C boys’ basketball state championship. Big Sandy had last won a state title in 1963 while in Class B, but this time around the No. 2 Pioneers out of the north defeated the No. 1 Power Pirates, also out of the north, 51-49. Just last week at the Northern C tournament in Great Falls the Pirates defeated the Pioneers 43-41 in the first round. But getting a second shot at the Pirates, the Pioneers capped off their season with six straight tournament wins and a long-overdue state title. “I feel overjoyed,” veteran Big Sandy head coach Roy Lackner said. “Not for me so much, but for the kids.” But the way the Pioneers earned the win was a surprise to everybody. Pearson has shown game-changing heroics since he first stepped into a Pioneer uniform his freshmen year. And with a game-high 24 points and the game-winning free throws, Pearson was no doubt a decisive factor Saturday night. But the Pioneers’ freshman Zac Leader went from almost unknown to hero in the championship win. Coming off the bench, Leader netted 12 points, going 4-of-8 from 3-point range. He knocked down two in the third quarter, keeping the Pioneers within six points of the surging Pirates, and two more in the fourth quarter to bring the Pirates' lead to just 45-42 with just under 4:30 left to play. “It was open all game,” Leader said. “He (Lackner) put me in to do that and that only. “Without him the game would have been out of reach,” Pearson said of his freshman teammate. “He did an amazing job. He hasn’t gotten many varsity minutes. I don’t think they (Power) even knew about him. He just kept shooting, and we told him to get his confidence and shoot right away and he did. “(Leader) has been here all year,” Lackner added. “But hasn’t gotten to play much. I always tell those kids you are going to get in when it’s most important and you are going to have to do the job. They can sit there and pout because they don’t play, but when it’s most important, that’s when they are going to play and that’s when he (Leader) played.” Pearson scored the last four points of the game on free throws, but none were more important than the last two. With 24 seconds left to play the contest was knotted at 42-42. The Pirates Hayden Vick failed to convert a mid range jumper with six seconds on the clock, giving Pearson just enough time to travel the length of the floor. The Pioneers had a two-on-one fast break and Pearson had just enough speed to make a move towards the basket. But as he attempted the shot with time expiring, both the whistle and buzzer rang throughout the arena. After a short meeting between the officials, 0.4 seconds were put back on the clock as well as two free throws were awarded to Pearson on the Vick foul. As Pirate fans erupted, Pearson knocked down the first one with confidence. And even though he planned on missing the second, that too was good, leaving the Pirates with 0.4 on the clock and just enough time for a desperation shot. But as Gus Somerfeld threw up a prayer, the Pioneers players and faithful began to celebrate the end of a 47-yearold drought. After the first one I felt so good,” Pearson said. “I knew with 0.4 on the clock it was going to be hard for them to get a shot up. We actually wanted to miss the second one, but it worked out anyway. This is amazing, it’s unbelievable and just the greatest feeling after the way our team came through.” The Pioneers started the game with an 8-0 run over the first two minutes. But as the Pirates battled back, the Pioneers lead was cut to 17-12 after the first eight minutes. And through the second quarter the Pirates kept clawing away. They outscored the Pioneers 13-9 and cut the lead to 26-25 heading into the break. The third frame also belonged to the Pirates. They outscored the Pioneers 6-0 to start the quarter and 14-7 overall as they headed into the fourth with a 39-33 lead. But after Leader’s muchneeded boost from behind the 3-point arc, it was the Pioneers turn to battle back, as they outscored the Pirates 18-10 in the final eight minutes to seal the deal. “We just hung in there,” Senior Brumwell said. “We dug deep and never gave up. We all believed in each other and have really bonded over the year. It would have been really easy to give up a little bit. Halfway through the fourth quarter it wasn’t looking too good, but Coach Lackner wouldn’t let us do that. Everyone contributed tonight, it was a great team effort.” Pearson’s 24 points led the Pioneers, but so did his 13 total rebounds. Brumwell had seven total rebounds and finished with 11 points and two blocked shots. But after being doubleteamed all night long, Brumwell’s numbers were down. And it was Leader’s 12 points that really gave the Pioneers a boost when they needed it the most. “If they (Power) would have come out we would have just gone inside,” Lackner said. “But we needed threes to get back into that game.” Before the Pioneers got their shot at state supremacy, they first had to make it out of a semifinal matchup with Circle on Friday. But handling their business, the Pioneers defeated the Wildcats 49-35. Pearson led with 16 points, while Brumwell added 13. Colter Darlington also finished with nine, while Trevor Lackner finished with seven. With the win the Pioneers put the finishing touches on a great season. They ended with a No. 1 finish at the 9C tournament, a No. 2 finish at the Northern C tournament, a state championship and a 23-4 record overall.
Purple Power: Pioneers capture Class C title
Published: Monday, March 8th, 2010
Click Here To See More Stories Like This