CALDWELL — The audible and visible exclaims of frustration that persisted throughout Prairie’s loss didn’t exist outside the locker room after the game. There, it mostly was silent, save for a few mumbles.
The Pirates’ season ended on a disappointing note Thursday with a 59-38 loss to Oakley in the consolation bracket of the Class 1A Division I state tournament at Vallivue High School. Untimely fouls and turnovers, plus poor free-throw shooting, caused Prairie to play from behind for all but a few minutes.
The Pirates’ only lead was 2-0.
“I thought it was a great season,” Prairie coach Shawn Wolter said. “I wanted this to end a lot differently for the boys but, unfortunately, that’s not always how things go.”
The Pirates (17-7) were whistled for 16 fouls, but it seemed like more, during a start-and-stop game in which any momentum they got would be halted by a charging call or a hustle-play foul. Oakley (20-4) converted 9-of-16 free throws but, more costly to Prairie, senior star Cole Schlader was limited to 11 minutes and fouled out with 6:09 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Players, coaches and spectators disputed many of the infractions, but Wolter pinned the outcome on his team being unable to adjust to the officiating — Prairie remained aggressive throughout the tightly called game.
“I don’t blame the officials one bit,” Wolter said. “I do wish that we were smarter in some of the choices that we took on offense, or some of the defensive choices, to keep us out of that foul trouble.”
The Pirates trailed 27-14 at halftime but cut their deficit to a manageable margin multiple times in the third and fourth. On every occasion, Oakley responded.
Schlader’s three-point play in the third trimmed the gap to 29-20, but it sparked a 6-0 Oakley spurt. Then, after Zach Rambo made two free throws to get Prairie within 38-28 in the fourth, Schlader was whistled for his fifth personal foul — an intentional foul, at that — giving Oakley two free throws and the ball back. Payton Beck went 2-for-2 at the line and buried a 3 to cap a five-point possession.
Schlader fouled out in both of Prairie’s state tournament games.
“Even with their star (Schlader) leaving the court, they still gave it their all," Wolter said. "We still had other people trying to step up, whether it be offense or defense. You can see the fight in these kids. They just couldn’t get the ball to go in the hole tonight.”
Rambo paced the Pirates with 24 points, going 9-of-18 from the field, 3-for-5 from outside and 3-for-5 at the foul line. Brody Hasselstrom finished with five points.
Oakley committed 21 fouls — five more than Prairie — but the Pirates couldn’t capitalize, going 6-of-18 at the line.
Prairie qualified for State despite losing five seniors off of last season’s team that missed the big dance. Schlader, Tyler Wemhoff and John Gehring are the only seniors on this season’s team.
"We had a lot of games where we had to overcome adversity and I felt like we did a good job,” Wolter said. “And after losing five seniors from the year before into a rebuilding program, I thought the boys picked up very well. … Not much more I could ask for.”
Cole Schlader 1 1-2 3, Wyatt Ross 1 0-3 2, Travis Alfrey 0 0-0 0, Kyle Schwartz 0 0-1 0, Zach Rambo 9 3-5 24, Lane Schumacher 1 0-2 2, Tyler Wemhoff 0 1-3 1, Shane Hanson 0 0-0 0, Brody Hasselstrom 2 0-0 5, Lee Forsmann 0 1-2 1. Totals 14 6-18 38.
Isaac Cranney 2 1-2 6, Robert Wybenga 3 0-0 7, Strom Pickett 0 0-0 0, Corbin Bedke 6 2-7 14, Vlad Lara 0 0-0 0, Payton Beck 4 6-6 16, Austin Cranney 2 0-0 5, Keshawn Crocker 0 0-0 0, William Praegitzer 0 0-0 0, Daniel Gonzalez 0 0-0 0, Jace Robinson 5 0-0 11, Porter Pickett 0 0-1 0, Briggs Saegers 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 9-16 59.
Prairie 7 7 12 12—38
Oakley 12 15 11 21—59
3-point goals — Rambo 3, Beck 2, Hasselstrom, I. Cranney, Wybenga, A. Cranney, Robinson.
Guernsey may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, (208) 848-2268 or on Twitter @MD_Guernsey.