On an emotional night at a packed Roosevelt High School gym, the Rough Riders kept rolling toward what is shaping up as a memorable season.
It was never easy and seldom pretty, but the second-ranked Riders outdueled No. 1 Pierre 58-56 in a much-awaited showdown between a pair of Class AA title contenders.
Zach Hanson, Pierre’s 6-foot-9 Creighton recruit, finished with 25 points, but SDSU commit Lane Severyn encountered foul trouble and was held to 11 as Roosevelt (4-0) handed the Governors their second straight loss.
“It was nice to have (Severyn) out of the game for a while,” said Roosevelt senior guard Tyler Howard, who scored 18 points to help the Riders rally from a 10-point deficit in the second half.
“We struggled a bit at the start of the game, but the hope is that we wear them down over the course of 32 minutes and come out on top at the end.”
Nate Cole added 12 points for the Riders, including several key free throws down the stretch as the teams battled to the wire before a passionate Sioux Falls vs. ESD crowd.
The competitive energy was in stark contrast to the pregame scene, when Roosevelt players wore “Conrad’s Clan” T-shirts in support of Pierre junior Conrad Adam, who is currently in Houston receiving cancer treatment.
The Riders also presented the Conrad’s Clan group with a check for $2,466 to help with Adam’s expenses, drawing long applause from both schools’ crowds.
Once the game got going, though, it was back to business. And the Governors (2-2) took control early by using their size against the smaller Riders, whose cold shooting make it tougher to set up their full-court trap.
“We knew it would be a 32-minute battle, and it was just a grind,” said Roosevelt coach Lee Taylor, whose team ended up forcing 14 turnovers, several at key times. “We knew we would eventually knock down shots and get something going.”
The Riders trailed 21-12 after the first quarter as 6-foot-4 defenders Brandon Boggs and Josh Kirkwold took turns trying to deal with Hanson inside.
The hosts still trailed 28-20 late in the first half, but Howard and Lucas Wilber sparked a late surge to pull within 28-24 at halftime, offering hope for the second half.
Usually when Roosevelt made a run, it involved getting a hand on a ball or clogging a passing lane to set up a layup on the other end.
“They’re a tough team to play anytime, but particularly at the start of the season, when you don’t have a lot of chemistry and fluidity with your press break,” said Pierre coach Terry Becker, whose team got nine rebounds apiece from Hanson and Severyn. “If you’re loose with the ball, they’ll take it away.”
That became more prevalent in the third quarter, when Severyn drew his fourth foul with 4:17 left and was forced to sit with Pierre holding a 37-28 lead.
The Riders pounced with an 11-2 run that pulled them into a 39-39 tie on Cole’s 3-pointer, and they took a 42-41 lead into the fourth quarter after Kirkwold bullied his way inside for a three-point play in the final seconds of the period.
It was a back-and-forth battle after that, with Severyn again making an impact for the Govs, who were coming off Friday’s loss to Brandon Valley.
Kirkwold put Roosevelt up 55-53 with a free throw with 39 seconds left, and Howard picked off a Pierre inbound pass after a Governor timeout, setting the stage for two Cole free throws and a 57-53 lead.
With Severyn fouled out, Pierre’s Cody Honeywell hit a 3-pointer give Pierre a chance trailing 58-56 after another Cole free throw.
But freshman Erin Severyn was accosted by Roosevelt’s defense and had to throw up a desperate heave instead of getting the ball to Hanson, and time ran out on the Govs.
Roosevelt now looks toward another key showdown at Brandon Valley on Friday, but the Riders know there’s a lot of basketball to play.
“We’ve got to stay humble,” said Howard. “We’ve still got work to do.”
Zach Hanson 25 points, Lane Severyn 11, Austin Christopherson 9, Garrett Pochop 4, Erin Severyn 4, Cody Honeywell 3.
Tyler Howard 18, Nate Cole 12, Jeremiah Clark 9, Lucas Wilber 7, Josh Kirkwold 4, Brandon Boggs 3, Trevon Moody 3, Chris Phillips 2.
Pierre 21 28 41 56
Roosevelt 12 24 42 58
Rebounds – P 25 (Hanson, L. Severyn 9), R 19 (Boggs 6). Assists – P 12, R 10 (Clark 4). Steals – P 3, R 15 (Howard 5).