Crane High School coach Dale Lamberth, a former Missouri State standout, and his boys basketball team scored the biggest upset of the postseason already. They just couldn’t add another chapter.
Cody Fitchpatrick scored a game-high 17 points and the Pierce City Eagles overcame a four-point halftime deficit — big in a low-scoring game — to beat Crane 37-35 in a Class 2 sectional Wednesday night at Republic High School.
It was a complete reversal from Nov. 21, when Crane’s Pirates beat Pierce City 79-49. In a year when it won the Spring River Valley Conference and its first district championship, Pierce City is one win away from reaching the final four next week in Columbia.
Pierce City will play Iberia (26-3) at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Class 2 quarterfinal at Drury University’s O’Reilly Family Event Center.
Jordan Bowling scored 14 points for Crane (22-6). The Eagles made 3 of 4 free throws to tie the game and take the lead late in the fourth quarter.
“We can’t even describe how we’re feeling right now. We’re just trying to ride this out,” Fitchpatrick said.
Crane upset defending state champion Billings 72-68 last Friday, a month after Billings won that matchup by 31 points.
“The best way to put it is it’s a game of karma,” Lamberth said. “It’s the way basketball is played. Any given night anything can happen.”
The Eagles led early, gaining a five-point advantage in the second quarter (14-9). But a 3-pointer by Crane’s Clay Stumpff followed by a layup from Bowling forged a tie. Forward Jake Sowell returned the Pirates to the lead three minutes into the second quarter and Crane finished the half with a 24-20 advantage.
“I feel we’re a much different team this time around,” said Zack Hyde, who added 15 points for Pierce City. “Our team chemistry has gotten a lot better since day one. A lot of people said we were the underdogs, but I honestly didn’t feel that way.”
Pierce City’s lack of size was a hurdle at both ends of the court. The 6-foot-4 Bowling and 6-foot-4 Jonah Walker dominated the boards, but the Eagles fought to stay close.
“Obviously we’re not real big and their height certainly gave us trouble. But my boys adjusted to it,” Pierce City coach Matthew Street said. “I’m really proud of them. Crane is a great team.”