RAPID CITY— having lost once already to the Raiders earlier this season, Head Coach Eric Skoglund’s Spearfish Spartans overcame a 17-point first half deficit to hand Rapid City Stevens a 66-62 defeat in the final game of the regular season.
For many years Stevens has owned any Spearfish club, and the first meeting in Spearfish, back on January 5, was an easy 69-47, Rapid City win. It looked like Saturday afternoon’s game would be little different. Outside Carold Heier Gymnasium a winter storm was escalating, resulting in several post-game fender benders. But inside the building, the Raiders were bending the Spartan fenders, pretty much dominating in all aspects of the game. Sitting on the bench, suited up but not playing, was junior power forward Terrance Eastman for the Raiders, for reasons Head Coach Chris Stoebner did not care to discuss. All season long, Eastman has been an on-again-off-again asset for the Raiders, as Stoebner has struggled mightily to get him back into the impressive form he displayed last season. Eastman’s physicality on the court might have changed the outcome, were he to decide to be a productive presence.
Down by 17 points at the half, the Spartans were definitely in need of a halftime pep talk, but that is not how Skoglund operates his program.
“When we go into the locker room,” Skoglund said. “Our boys write down three things we need to improve on, and three things we did well. And it is always spot on with what the coaching staff sees and has talked about. Our guys are locked in, and that’s the biggest compliment I can give them, is that they see the game as the coaching staff sees the game. So, it wasn’t any adjustments. We just reminded them that we always have to guard at 25 feet and we didn’t get enough defensive stops. We were able to attack (Ben) Goldy, their big, who refused to come out to the perimeter. And our guys knocked down some open shots.”
Overall the stats were pretty even, but they are misleading, as the Spartans could do little stat-wise in the first half but exploded for 9 for 12 from three-point land in the second half. Tyler Huber went 7-15 for Spearfish and led all scorers with 17 points.
Junior guard Peyton Millis, who took control of the second half attack, and dished four assists, was a bit surprised by the turn of events but explained why the team hit their shots: “They were easy points, to be honest. Instead of the first half, where we were forcing up shots, once we got wide open threes, it’s just like practice,”
“They made shots,” Stoebner said. “I told the guys, I don’t think we played terribly by any means. They stepped up and made shots.”
Kaden Lemer and Jaden Haefs led Stevens with 16.
The loss killed a crosstown matchup with Rapid City Central, a team the Raiders upset just a week back. Central will remain at home, but they will face Pierre, a much easier opponent than arch rival Stevens, and Stevens must take a very long bus ride to the far edge of the state and play Brandon Valley.
Freshman starter Teysean Eaglestaff had several key rebounds and a big bucket for the Spartans, and his journey into the Class A ranks continues. Eaglestaff was forced to find another program after the team his father coaches, Cheyenne-Eagle Butte, opted not to field a team this season for COVID reasons. Eaglestaff has made a remarkable adjustment to a new school, a non-reservation environment, and has continued to develop his skills and court presence at a Class AA level.
(Contact James Giago Davies at firstname.lastname@example.org)