Carl Swallow put his team on his back and Jeremy Blacksmith hit another huge 3-point basket against Pine Ridge to help Red Cloud top the Thorpes 61-60 for the District 15A boys basketball championship at Barnett Arena on Thursday.
Trailing 58-56, Red Cloud was in dire need of a big play and just as he did three weeks ago in the same building, Blacksmith stepped up and hit a 3-pointer to give his team a late-game lead at 59-58. Blacksmith nailed the game-winner against the Thorpes in a 59-54 victory on Feb. 13 at the civic center. Blacksmith finished the night with seven points, but he came through in the clutch against his school’s fiercest rival for the second time this season.
“I don’t know if there was any difference tonight,” Red Cloud head coach Matt Rama said. “That game could have gone either way, we just got lucky enough to make the plays we needed down the stretch.”
Swallow hit two more free throws and the Thorpes missed some crucial free throws late as the Crusaders held on.
“I really don’t know what to say,” Rama said. “Pine Ridge is really playing good ball, (Jerome) LeBeaux has them playing great. We were fortunate to come out of this one with a win.”
Swallow was huge in the fourth quarter yet again for the Crusaders, scoring 21 of his game-high 32 points in the second half. The Crusaders (17-4 overall) will take on St. Thomas More in the Region 8A title game on Tuesday. It will be the sixth straight season that the two West River Catholic high schools will meet for the Region 8A crown.
Bryer Cottier led the Thorpes with 16 points. Pine Ridge suffered a major blow when its leading scorer, junior forward Orie Brown, fouled out with 7:34 to play in the fourth quarter.
Pine Ridge ends its season with a 14-8 record. The Thorpes will lose seniors Joe Bissonette, Cole Brewer and Cottier, but will return a good portion of its team in 2010-11.