By Kim Staudinger
Coming into Friday night's semifinal game, Blue Sky was in a position Rocky Boy wanted to be in all season No. 1.
The Eagles came in as the top seed, Rocky Boy the fourth. The regular season title belonged to Blue Sky; the Stars wanted to leave with the district title.
To help in the title run, Rocky Boy had a few twists of fate on its side. One of the top advantages Blue Sky's team had been battling the flu all week. The Stars also had already played in one game at the tournament, giving them a game to get over any pre-tournament jitters. With the first-round bye, the Eagles' first game was the semifinal game Friday night.
These two bumps in the road for Blue Sky, along with Rocky Boy's strong desire to repeat as District 9C champions, helped make the difference as the Stars won, 76-61.
Blue Sky and Rocky Boy were evenly matched in scoring in the second and fourth quarters, but it was what Rocky Boy did in the first and third quarters that won the game.
Eight points by Dustin Sunchild in the first quarter, combined with five each from Mike Morsette and Jeff Henry, gave Rocky Boy an eight-point lead.
Coming out of the half with an eight-point lead, the Stars got two quick baskets from Jeff Henry to increase the lead to 12 and force Blue Sky to take a timeout. Henry scored one more basket in the quarter with Mike Morsette and Marcus Standing Rock adding one basket and one three-pointer apiece, expanding the Stars' lead to 15 at the end of the quarter.
Blue Sky was never able to cut into the lead as the Stars smashed the Eagles' hopes for the district title.
"Even when we made plays, we were a step slower getting back on defense," Blue Sky coach Darrin Hannum said. "We got in a rush in the press a little bit and made some errors. But on a positive note, they're a good team."
Rocky Boy head coach Tim Henry said everybody contributed to the win over Blue Sky.
"That was one of the better games we'd played all year," Henry said. "I thought everbody stepped up. Jeff (Henry) played real well. I thought he was a big key. Charles Walking Child, a freshman, played real well, too."
But Henry saw another thing as key in the semifinal game.
"I thought Blue Sky came out a little relaxed beating us both times in the season," he said. "We came out and got the lead, seven or eight points at the start. We shot the ball real well. We outrebounded them."
Senior Mike Morsette said they prepared for the Blue Sky game all week in practice, which "made a big difference" and were ready for the Eagles. Still, there was more to the top performance he and his teammates put on for the fans.
"I think we wanted it more," Morsette said. "Jeff Henry stepped it up and have us a boost right at the beginning. It comes down to whoever wants it more."
Morsette also said getting the lead early in the game was key.
"They aren't used to coming from behind," he said.
And with moving on to the championship game Saturday night, Morsette left a message for opposing teams: "All the way to state."
Rocky Boy Marcus Standing Rock 16, Mike Morsette 20, Jeff Henry 15, Dustin Sunchild 19, Clayton Houle 2, Mike Seaton 2, Charles Walking Child 2.
Blue Sky Jon Lipp 8, Brent Petrick 17, Mike Hutchinson 11, Eric Groth 2, Keenan Toner 10, Mitch McKinley 13.