The top-seeded Blue Sky Eagles had to like the way their bracket was set up going into this weekend's District 9C Boys Basketball Tournament.
With the Eagles winning the regular season conference championship, they won the right to a first-round bye. The bye set them up for a game Friday night with Rocky Boy, the No. 4 team.
But the Eagles, who were hampered by illness, were upset by Rocky Boy and were forced to battle back through the loser's bracket. Blue Sky picked up an easy win Saturday morning over Box Elder, 74-47, to advance to the consolation final game against Big Sandy. The Eagles earned a 79-61 win over the Pioneers.
Since Blue Sky had already lost to Rocky Boy, the Eagles had to hope for the Stars to beat Hays-Lodge Pole to keep their divisional tournament hopes alive.
Nervously watching the championship game, the Blue Sky coaches, players and fans cheered for Rocky Boy.
Hays-Lodge Pole took a seven-point lead into the half as Eagle fans saw their season quickly nearing its end. But just as quickly, Rocky Boy came back and took a two-point lead of its own with just eight minutes of play remaining. The Stars increased their lead in the fourth quarter to take the title and force Hays-Lodge Pole into a challenge game with Blue Sky tonight at 7.
Blue Sky coach Darrin Hannum said even with the added days off, it may be hard for Hays-Lodge Pole to rebound after a tough loss to Rocky Boy.
"Tempo's going to be the key," he said. "Hays has some wonderful athletes. They work hard. They have a lot of senior leadership."