When it’s a methodical, possession-by-possession half-court game, the Pierce City Eagles are in their comfort zone.
Pierce City held Crane scoreless in the final 3:30 to emerge with a 37-35 Class 2 sectionals victory at Republic High School on Wednesday night.
“We’ve done a great job all (season) of not letting that pressure get to us,” said Pierce City coach Matt Street. “We talk about it all the time, if we can play four quarters of our style of basketball, we’ll come out fine.”
The Eagles face Iberia (26-3 overall) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Drury’s O’Reilly Family Event Center. The winner moves on to the Class 2 state championships the following weekend.
Pierce City’s Cody Fitchpatrick drew a foul call on a defensive rebound with 1:39 remaining, going to the line and making one of two free throws to tie the game 35-35.
Jordan Bowling missed a turnaround shot on Crane’s next possession and the Eagles got the rebound. Pierce City senior Cedric O’Hara was fouled on the ensuing possession. He went to the line and made two free throws to give the Eagles a 37-35 lead with 26.6 seconds remaining.
Crane came up empty again, but Pierce City missed two free throws with 8.6 seconds remaining to give the Pirates one last chance. Pirates sophomore Zach Chastain missed a contested long-range shot before time expired.
Pirates coach Dale Lamberth said his team struggled from the perimeter.
“They said they were going to make us beat them from the outside,” Lamberth said. “Tonight, I think we were 1-for-15 from 3, which is just a complete turnaround from Friday night (against Billings).
“We got to, well I can’t say we’ve got to because the season’s over, but we need the younger guys to make a commitment to get better. Those seniors, I feel bad for them because they wanted to go on so bad. As a coach, I hurt for them.”
Crane scored just four points in the fourth quarter. Lamberth said the game was similar to a district semifinals win (33-32) that Crane had over Marionville on Feb. 20.
“It showed, when we made it a half-court game, how much we missed our senior Cole Walden,” Lamberth said. Walden suffered a season-ending injury in Crane’s district opener Feb. 18 “He was a difference maker. Teams have to honor him. (Pierce City) really only had to guard two or three guys, and that was the difference when Walden went down.”
Cody Fitchpatrick and Zack Hyde combined for 32 of Pierce City’s 37 points.
“Normally we’re balanced,” Street said. “We’ve got four guys that average between 12 and 10 (points). Tonight, the style of game that (Crane) forced us into with that zone, our two big guys flashed up and knocked down some shots when they needed to.”
Pierce City nearly had its postseason run end in the first round of districts. The Eagles slipped by Wheaton 48-46 in the Class 2, District 12 quarterfinals Feb. 19. PCHS beat Miller 61-52 in the district finals Feb. 23.
Pierce City 37, Crane 35
Pierce City 11 9 8 9 --- 37
Crane 9 15 7 4 --- 35
Pierce City – Cody Fitchpatrick 17, Zack Hyde 15, Cedric O’Hara 5
Crane – Jordan Bowling 12, Bailey Moore 8, Sam Sowell 6, Jake Sowell 4, Clay Stumpff 3, Zach Chastain 2