Feb 25, 2014 - By Randy Tucker, Sports WriterThe St. Stephen's Eagles exited the Class 1-A tournament much earlier than they wished Monday afternoon in a 70-57 loss to Hanna Elk Mountain, the No. 5 seed from the Southwest 1-A at Bob Carey Memorial Fieldhouse.
The loss eliminated the Eagles from regional tournament play.
St. Stephen's found itself in the "pigtail" game after Meeteetse upset Dubois in the regular season finale for both schools, moving St. Stephen's from third and an automatic tournament bid to fourth and the play-in game.
The opening half was even, with the Miners taking small leads before the Eagles answered. Hanna Elk Mountain held a 31-28 advantage with just seconds to go in the first half when Derrick Williams hit a buzzer-beating trey to knot the game at the half.
Two factors doomed the St. Stephen's effort in the second half. Several team members were ill during the game, and ineligibility shortened the Eagle bench.
The other factor was 6-foot-6 post Quade Palm for the Miners. Palm's physical presence in the paint was hard to miss. He only blocked a couple of shots but he altered dozens, and the St. Stephen's shooting percentage plummeted as the Eagles tried to twist, fade away and go around his outstretched arms.
With the Eagle defense collapsing on Qualm, guard Wyatt Phillips found a lane and hit a pair of driving layups as the Miners opened the second half on a 10-4 run.
St. Stephen's roared back with renewed intensity on baskets by Jaron Arthur and Brandon C'Hair to cut the lead to 45-44 with 16 seconds left in the third, but Arthur was whistled for a technical foul.
Celsey Meyer missed both free throws, but Trevor Rice scored on the inbounds play and the Miners never looked back.
Meyer and Qualm took over the final period for the Miners, scoring a combined 20 of the team's 23 points. Meyer hit a 3-pointer, while Qualm's points all came within inches of the basket.
St. Stephen's began a steady march to the bench on fifth fouls. Williams had exited the game late in the third, and Arthur and C'Hair soon followed.
The Miners advanced to a 2 p.n. game Thursday against Southwest champion Little Snake River.
In the other play-in game Farson overcame a huge 27-6 deficit to defeat Ten Sleep 60-57 and will face Burlington at 5:20 p.m. Thursday.
The Southwest sweep of the Northwest in pigtail games sends all five southern teams into the regional, while just three northwest teams remain.
HANNA ELK MOUNTAIN 18 13 16 23 - 70
ST. STEPHEN'S 18 13 13 13 -- 57
Hanna Elk Mountain - Wyatt Phillips 5 1-2 11, Jake Sutter 1 1-2 3, Trevor Rice 6 0-0 12, Celsey Meyer 2 (1) 6-14 13, Quade Palm 13 5-12 31. Totals 27 (1) 13-30 70
St. Stephen's -- William Groesbeck 0-2 0, R.J. Bowstring 1 (1) 0-0 5, Dustin Blackburn 5 0-2 10, Brylee Shakespeare 1 0-0 2, Lakota Oldman 1 0-0 2, Jeremiah Fighting Bear 1 (1) 0-0 5, Derrick Williams 1 (1) 2-4 7, Jaron Arthur 5 2-5 12, Brandon C'Hair 7 0-0 14. Totals 22 (3) 4-13 57
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