By Kim Staudinger
The Big Sandy Pioneers came into the District 9C Boys Basketball Tournament with luck on their side.
The Pioneers won a coin flip earlier in the week, a flip they felt put them on the better side of the bracket.
But somewhere along the way, Big Sandy may have forgotten about the No. 2 team in Hays-Lodge Pole, the team they met up with Friday night in the semifinal game.
The Thunderbirds were out to prove they were one of the top teams in the district, despite not having played most of the teams due to regionalized scheduling.
They did so with a 62-58 victory.
Gage Brumwell got the Pioneers off to a racing start, netting 16 of his team's 20 points in the first quarter. Brumwell finished the game with 34 points and 15 rebounds, 13 of which came on the defensive end.
Hays-Lodge Pole's defense picked up the pace going into the second quarter, holding the Pioneers to just eight points. The offense also starting clicking. The Thunderbirds scored 22 points in the second quarter to take a 35-28 lead into the half.
Shawn Shambo drained all three of his three-point baskets in the quarter with James Flying adding two. The crafty playmaking and tough defensive pressure of junior point guard Nathan Martin fueled the comeback. Martin added five points in the quarter.
Down by nine early in the third quarter, Big Sandy made a comeback of its own. With just under four minutes remaining in the quarter junior Chris Yirsa tied the game at 39.
A back-and-forth scoring battle ensued until Martin hit two three-point baskets and another long two-point shot to give Hays-Lodge Pole an eight-point lead. The Pioneers cut the lead to three before the quarter ended.
Big Sandy regained the lead in the final eight minutes of play, taking a three-point lead with 6:31 remaining. The back-and-forth scoring continued until Brumwell tied the game for the final time with four minutes remaining.
One minute later, Hays-Lodge Pole began to stall with a four-point lead. At the 2:09 mark, Brumwell scored Big Sandy's final two points of the game.
A backcourt violation 30 seconds later and missed baskets by Big Sandy clinched the game for Hays-Lodge Pole.
With time winding down, Josh Werk scored his only two points of the game, giving the Thunderbirds the victory.
"Those boys gave it 100 percent and I am proud of those boys," Hays-Lodge Pole head coach Shawn Backbone said. "Big Sandy's a pretty young team. They are a team to be reckoned with in the future. But experience was with us."
HAYS-LODGE POLE 13
Big Sandy Jay Jamieson 4, Gage Brumwell 34, Mason Ophus 14, Adam Jespersen 1, Chris Yirsa 5.
Hays-Lodge Pole Russell Doney 9, Shawn Shambo 13, James Flying 15, D.J. Small 8, Nathan Martin 15, Josh Werk 2.