By Harvey Brock
The Rocky Boy Northern Stars and the Big Sandy Pioneers began Friday night as two of the top teams in the District 9-C boys basketball standings. Friday night's game in Big Sandy served as affirmation that these two should be near the top for the rest of the season.
The Pioneers' victory served as proof that they are a developing young athletic team. The visiting Rocky Boy Northern Stars may have lost the game, but showcased a team that possesses the talent, speed, depth and style of play to compete for the conference title and beyond.
Both teams held double-digit leads before allowing their opponent to retake the lead. Rocky Boy jumped out to an 11-point lead as its press forced four Big Sandy turnovers in the opening minutes.
Big Sandy rallied to trail only 17-14 at the end of the quarter. Rocky Boy's physical full court press and junior point guard Marcus Standing Boy's 11 first- half points kept the Pioneers at bay the rest of the half.
Trailing 35-32 in the second half, Pioneer coach Roy Lackner was called for a technical foul. Big Sandy responded with a 17-5 run to lead 49-40 at the end of third quarter. Big Sandy's run was keyed by the defensive play of point guard Chris Yirsa, while sophomore Jay Jamieson's 17 points, Gage Brumwell's 13 points and Mason Ophus' 13 points supplied the firepower for the game.
The start of the fourth quarter belonged to Rocky Boy. Turning up their defensive intensity, the Northern Stars went on a 14-3 run of their own to retake the lead with four minutes left to play. Senior Mike Morsette fueled the run, scoring 10 second-half points.
The lead changed hands three more times in the next two minutes. The game remained in doubt, before a questionable technical foul on Rocky Boy's Marcus Standing Rock gave the Pioneers a four-point play. Big Sandy took advantage of two more Northern Star technical fouls down the stretch for a hard- fought victory.
Big Sandy coach Roy Lackner thought his team showed signs of improving. "We got down in the first half and we came back. Rocky Boy played hard. We were fortunate that they didn't shoot well. They're a physical team, and we're young. Young teams have to learn to play physical. I have to give our kids credit. They played better defense in the second half and did enough things right to win."
Rocky Boy coach Tim Henry was pleased with his team's effort. "We played hard, but missed some shots that we should have made. Coach Lackner is a good coach and he does a good job with his kids."