STURGIS — The Sturgis boys’ basketball team was in a mini slump, losing on consecutive nights last week to Rapid City Stevens and Rapid City Central.
They didn’t want to see the skid go any further with rival Spearfish on the docket tonight.
The Scoopers reversed their fortune just in time, scoring the game’s final nine points to stop Pierre 64-53 Thursday night.
“Those Rapid City schools are really good,” Sturgis coach Colin McCampbell said. “Playing them back-to-back nights is really tough. Even if they weren’t a combined 20-1, it would be tough to play them back-to-back. We needed to bounce back and have more energy, and I thought we did that tonight.”
The Scoopers had their hands full against a Pierre team that was much better than its 2-8 overall record. The two teams traded leads throughout much of the game before Sturgis took control in the final couple of minutes, thanks to a five-point possession.
While senior Dawson Geuke was hitting a 3-pointer, senior teammate Nick Anderson drew a foul underneath the basket, and he calmly hit both free throws to put the Scoopers up 60-53 with 2 minutes, 25 seconds remaining.
“We’ve had a tough couple of games, and at practice McCampbell has really been pushing us to finish and work on our conditioning. When this game came down to the wire, I think we just really wanted this one,” Geuke said. “When we get a little bit of momentum, the whole team gets energy. That five-point swing really jacked us up and helped us finish.”
Sturgis added baskets by Connor Crane and Cedrick Stabber to close the scoring.
Sturgis jumped out to a quick 11-4 lead, only to see Pierre, behind a four-point play from Garrett Stout and a 3-pointer from Peyton Zabel, to quickly tie the game. The Scoopers led 13-12 at the end of the first quarter, only to see the Governors take a 29-28 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The score was tied at 44-44 heading into the fourth quarter after Geuke and Chase Sattgast traded 3-pointers in the final six seconds of the third.
Geuke and Ryan Garland both hit 3-pointers fairly early in the fourth for Sturgis, but Zabel’s long 3-pointer put Pierre back in front at 51-49 with 4:19 to play.
Sturgis battled back and regained the lead on four straight free throws by Crane, the first two from a technical foul by Pierre coach Terry Becker.
The Scoopers led 55-53 before the five-point possession and strong finish.
For the most part, McCampbell felt his team played strong defense, but he said it got caught a few times and gave up some big shots. They were at their best defensively, though, in the final quarter.
“I thought our kids really defended well for 90 percent of the possessions, but five, six or seven possessions we got caught and they scored a big 3 on almost all of them,” he said. “At the end of the game we made some plays, and I thought our defense in the last quarter was pretty good holding them to nine points when they are really trying to push.”
Geuke led the way for Sturgis with 16 points, followed by Crane with 15 and Garland with 12.
Garland, who missed the Central game because of illness, was glad to be back in a lineup that can be deadly shooting from the outside with himself, Crane and Geuke.
“We have a small rotation with only seven guys, so it definitely helps with me back because it is hard to play at a fast pace with six people — it’s still hard with seven people,” he said. “But once we got the pace that we wanted to have, things started flowing better and we started making shots.”
Stout led all scorers for the Govs with 18 points and Zabel chipped in with 16.
Garland said the main focal point was stopping Zabel, who he believes will be a first-team all-stater.
“We just had to play better than them (the rest of the team), and hit our shots so we could ultimately win the game,” he said.
McCampbell was also pleased with the quality win against a Pierre team that plays a very aggressive schedule.
“They are always very well coached,” he said. “Terry Becker, I respect him as much as anybody, and they have Zabel, who is as good of a AA player as there is, and I think we have very good players. “
Thursday night’s win was important, Geuke said, because the Scoopers play a different schedule with a mixture of A and AA contests as members of the Black Hills Conference.
“This one (win) lets us know that we can play with all of the big schools, and we’re ready to play the good teams around the state,” he said.
Garland said it is important that they get better every day in practice so by the end of the year they can win that one game to state scenario of the Sweet 16.
“That’s our big goal; that’s all we want to do is go to state,” Garland said. “We have to continue to get better so we can put ourselves in the best position to get a high seed and go to state.”
The Scoopers host Spearfish tonight at 8 p.m. Pierre is at Watertown tonight.