Over the past few years, the Marionville/Crane rivalry has become something to look forward to come district tournament time. One of the two teams will come into the tournament favored to win or advance to the final, only to be beaten by the team seen as the underdog. Last year it was Marionville on the losing end, as Crane knocked out the Comets in a 55-40 upset.
Even with that history in mind, it was hard to imagine the number four seed and tournament host Marionville team could overcome the number one seeded Pirates. But in the end, it almost couldn't have turned out any other way.
The game was a competitive one from the jump, with the teams trading points and the lead throughout the first quarter. Crane led 13-11 after the first period and turned up the heat early in the second, opening up a seven-point lead as the Comets failed to score through the first four minutes.
Even as the Marionville offense found its footing, Crane kept up its own production to take a 29-22 lead into the halftime break.
The Pirates came out and extended the lead to 10 points early in the third quarter, but the Comets would soon turn things around. Quietly they inched back to within four points and then within two with less than a minute to go in the third.
A free throw put Crane ahead by three with seven seconds to go, but a buzzer-beating trey by senior Josh Goodman tied the game and sent the home fans into a frenzy to swing the momentum fully into Marionville's favor.
The Comets took their first lead since the opening quarter early in the fourth and kept up the pressure, eventually leading by as many as 10 points.
Trailing by eight with a minute to go, Crane called a timeout and managed to come back to within three with less than 15 seconds left. The Pirates took their final timeout and had to foul with 5.4 on the clock and the score at 62-59.
Senior Laythen Utke blocked out the noise and hit one huge free throw to extend Marionville's advantage to four points, and the Crane desperation heave as time expired would not have been enough even if it had been successful.
Goodman's 20 points led the Comets on the night, followed by 14 from Jordan Williams. Dominick Clevenger finished with 10, while Gavin Stanton added eight. Utke's clutch free throw pushed his total to seven, while Evan Dotson contributed four.
Following the 63-59 win, the Comets stuck around to watch the other semifinal and scout their next opponent as Verona took on Billings. With Verona taking the win, the two local teams met in Friday's district championship game, their second meeting of the season.