PINE RIDGE — Only one rivalry in the state matches Red Cloud vs Pine Ridge, and that is Stevens vs Central and last Thursday night before a packed house, the 6-1 Crusaders prevailed over their cross town rivals, 64-57, after the Thorpes had controlled the first three-and-a-half quarters of the game.
“Pine Ridge is a good team,” Red Cloud Head Coach Christian McGhee said. “I knew it was going to be like this and the boys just had to dig deep. I don’t know how we can even deal with (Pine Ridge), they can do so much. I mean, Halin Bad Bear, and Corey Brown, it was keeping me up late at night figuring out how to guard them.”After an opening mad scramble of turnovers and missed shots, the Thorpes took control on both ends of the floor, and McGhee and company were not figuring out how to guard them.
Red Cloud’s Jesse Jensen said McGhee told them at the half, when they were down 27-22, “…just to stay poised, keep pace with them, keep our heads.”KILI radio’s Tom Casey said, “Red Cloud just came out more aggressive (in the second half), and (Ale Rama) took the ball and they could not stop him.”
Rama led all scorers with 37 points, and yanked down ten critically important rebounds, especially in the late going, when he would race the length-of-court, and soar to the bucket with a layup.
But it was 11-5, Pine Ridge after a quarter, and could have been worse than that had Bad Bear’s three not went in-and-out at the buzzer. Russell Leader Charge, opened the second half with a much needed lay-up for Red Cloud, but his superior athleticism was a non-factor for three quarters. It was the superior team athleticism of Pine Ridge that was flexing its basketball muscles, and it is understandable why Coach Corey Shangreaux’s Thorpes worry people. The Class of 2019 is bristling with talent, Bad Bear, Brown, Juwon Garnier, Corey Blacksmith, pesky Darrell Vitalis; this is the heart and soul of the Thorpes, and where their leadership should come from.
The problem is they need one of their number to step up and take charge, and they need to communicate much better on the floor, because if they have a major weakness, the lack of communication would be number one.
One player that has no problem letting his teammates know what is up and what they should be doing is Red Cloud’s Rama, and when he isn’t talking, he is busy doing, and his response can be explosive, and kill the momentum of the other team. There is no player in the state who hates to lose more than Rama does.
It was after Rama started his length-of-court fourth quarter barrage, that Leader Charge caught fire, and started high flying into the paint, emphatically kissing the ball off the glass. He would wind up with 16 points, most of them coming at a time when Red Cloud needed to make a statement.
Brown, who had been dominating under the basket, lost his focus, and Garnier, who had been swishing threes, disappeared as well. Bad Bear was still a big presence, but he could not find the scoring help he had enjoyed early on. The Crusaders outscored the Thorpes by 13 in the fourth quarter.
It can be argued that the Thorpes are better than any of the teams they have lost to this season. McGhee said, “I really like the Pine Ridge boys, they are very hard working kids. Win or lose, we both needed this kind of game, where the crowd is crazy, because it is only going to make us and Pine Ridge better at the end of the year.”
Given the new round of 16 format, McGhee thinks both teams will advance to this round of the playoffs, giving Region 7 a good chance of putting two teams in the state tournament.
A couple of players besides Rama and Leader Charge factored in the Crusader win.
“A person on the team that doesn’t get a lot of recognition is Jesse Jensen,” McGhee said. “He does a lot of the little things that you need a player to do. He’s like a glorified role player, a great kid who works his butt off. Louis Her Many Horses is also emerging as a kid who is becoming a great player.”
Whenever there is a hole in Red Cloud’s effort, Her Many Horses seems to have a knack for stepping up with a much needed bucket or rebound. Like LNI champ White River, Red Cloud is a team fast becoming greater than the sum of its parts.
(James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)