In two matchups that could have a lot to say about the Class AA basketball standings, the Rapid City Stevens boys' and girls' basketball teams hosted and split a doubleheader against Sioux Falls Lincoln at Carold Heier Gymnasium Saturday.
Both games were nail-biters, with the Stevens boys edging Lincoln 64-63, while the Raiders girls came up short and lost 55-54.
Grinding out another win
It seems to be a theme with the Stevens boys' basketball team, grinding out wins.
Saturday was no different, as the Raiders trailed for most of the game, but came back in the fourth quarter and beat Lincoln on a last possession defensive stand.
"We just battled, that's what we're all about," Stevens guard Cooper Bowman said. "Most teams in the state have more size, and I think you could say more skill than us, but we just have a chip on our shoulder every day. We don't take anything for granted. Our seniors, all we think about is how many (games) we have left and we don't want to waste one by not giving our best effort."
After the two teams were tied at the end of the first quarter at 12 each, Lincoln started to heat up and took a 32-25 lead into the locker room at halftime.
"In the first half they were just tougher than we were," Raiders coach Chris Stoebner said. "We gave up too many points in the first half, and offensively we were pretty stagnant. You can do a lot of things when you play together, and we've been doing that all year. That's kind of what got it done, that's all I can say. I don't know how we won the game to be honest with you."
Stevens outscored Linclon 19-18 in the third quarter, but still trailed the Patriots 50-44 at the end of the period. In the fourth quarter, however, the Raiders had a 20-13 edge to get out with a win.
"We talk about it everyday; you have to be mentally tough. That's as important as skill," Stoebner said. "We try to preach that and we're not perfect. We had moments where we were after each other in the huddle, but I think everyone is playing for each other right now. That's key because there were plenty of opportunities for us to pack it in."
On the last possession, Lincoln tried to run a play out of a timeout, but let the clock tick down too low. Jared Jaros tried to put a shot up with time winding down, but the ball bounced off his leg and into the arms of a Raider defender, ending the game.
Connor King led all scorers with 16 points for the Raiders, while Bowman added 15 and Dawson Paulsen had 12. Diang Gatluak led the Patriots with 15 while Jymell Nave had 12 and Christophe Bwanya had 11.
Stevens, 14-2, takes on Rapid City Central Thursday, while Lincoln, 11-5, takes on Sioux Falls O'Gorman at home Saturday.
A tough ending
The Stevens girls seemed to have everything set up for a chance to force overtime. Trailing 55-52 with 5.8 seconds left, coach Michael Brooks called a timeout and drew up a play.
The play, however, resulted in the Raiders going for a 2-point shot instead of a 3-point shot, and sealing the win for Lincoln.
The initial shot was missed, but Sydney Smith gathered in the rebound and made a layup as time expired.
"We didn't execute the shot, and that's on me," Brooks said of the final shot.
The loss began at the start of the fourth quarter. Leading 48-41, the Raiders gave up the first 11 points, and in no time Lincoln was leading 52-48.
The Patriots switched at the start of the fourth into a 2-3 zone, and Brooks said that gave his team problems.
"I thought we had some turnovers that hurt us. We have to continue to take care of the ball," he said. "I think we need to continue to be shot ready and looking to attack, and we just didn't do that in the fourth quarter. We were kind of playing passive and allowing their zone to take us out of what we wanted to do."
The first quarter ended with the score tied at 14, but the Raiders had a solid second quarter and led 31-22 going into the locker room.
The Patriots outscored Stevens 19-17 in the third, but Stevens still enjoyed a comfortable lead going into the final eight minutes.
"They played a lot of man, a 3-2 (zone), and they finally found a groove in the 2-3 that hurt us," Brooks said. "We've done a great job against the 2-3, sharing the ball and being shot ready. It just so happens that they had us in a bad spot where we were not confident about what we were supposed to do in that time. We had some key turnovers that didn't allow us to be successful."
Kyah Watson had 17 points for Stevens while Lincoln's Morgan Hansen led all scorers with 18. Courtney Klatt finished the game with 11 points for the Patriots, nine of which came in the fourth quarter.
Stevens, 15-3, closes out the regular season Feb. 20 at Rapid City Central, while Lincoln, 13-3, travels to Sioux Falls Washington Tuesday.