Battle of the Best Games: Harrold, Warner thriller stands test of time
ABERDEEN -- Eric Lappe can’t escape it.
It’s almost three decades after he shot his way into state basketball lore and people still bring up March 21, 1992.
That’s when tiny Harrold -- the second smallest enrollment in the state (27 students) -- toppled previously undefeated and top-rated Warner 84-79 at a rocking Wachs Arena. It’s among the finalists for The Daily Republic’s Battle of the Best Games boys series. The Daily Republic’s Battle of the Best Games, which started last month by having readers vote on their top high school basketball title games, has picked four finalists in both the boys and girls divisions.
Readers are being called upon again to pick the No. 1 game in each category through online balloting. Voting is now open through mitchellrepublic.com ., and will remain open through Saturday.
Lappe said he always smiles and sometimes gets embarrassed by the attention he’ll receive about the historic 1992 game. But it’s hard not to appreciate the magnitude of it and all those involved with the game.
“I am shocked all the time at how much it actually does come up because it was about 30 years ago now,” Lappe said. “Not a lot of things kind of stand the test of time from 1992, but it seems like this one does.”
The seesaw battle, which featured 17 lead changes and 15 ties, is still the State B boys basketball tournament record for most points (163) in a championship game. Harrold’s 84 points are still the State B boys basketball tournament record for most points in a championship game.
It featured momentum swings and took place with an overflowing crowd of more than 8,000 fans at Northern State University’s Wachs Arena.
“We had never played in front of (a crowd) that big before,” former Harrold guard Brian Marso said. “When it started we had the Harrold fans and of course there were the Warner fans. But by the end -- besides the Warner fans -- it seemed like everyone was cheering for our team. That’s something that a lot of people don’t get to experience and a crowd that size.”
They treated the fans to a game for the ages. Lappe poured in 40 points on 12 of 24 from the field and hit four 3-pointers. Quinton Bauer (19 points) and Marso (17 points) scored in double figures. Chuck Welke, Jr. powered Warner with 39 points on 18 of 39 from the field and a whopping 22 rebounds. Chris Rozell racked up 26 points for the Monarchs (23-1).
Lappe was whistled for his fourth foul late in the third quarter, but Marso and Bauer kept the Cardinals (22-3) within striking distance. Bauer finished 5 of 5 at the 3-point line and Harrold hit 11 total 3-pointers.
“It showed how balanced of a team that we were -- that when I did get into some foul trouble in the second half and had to sit for awhile -- that my teammates stepped up and kept the game close,” said Lappe, whose 40-point performance stood as the State B championship record for 16 years.
Warner took a 75-67 lead with three minutes left, but then the Cardinals turned the tide back into their favor. Harrold out-scored Warner, 17-4, in the final three minutes.
“We just went completely flat,” said Marso, who took an elbow to the head in the second quarter and sported a gash the rest of the game. “We fouled in some areas we shouldn’t have been fouling, and then, it happened.”
Marso’s field goal sliced it to 75-69 and Bauer’s steal led to the first of three memorable Lappe 3-pointers in the waning moments. Lappe took the pass from Bauer crossing halfcourt and drilled a 3-pointer over two Warner defenders, making it 75-72 with 2:35 left and putting the fans into a frenzy.
“I didn’t really think about it as this is my moment to shine or anything like that,” Lappe said. “It was really this is my job. This is what I am going to do and my teammates knew where to get me the ball in different situations.”
Welke momentarily stopped the bleeding and extended it to 77-74, but Lappe drained another contested 3-pointer and tied it up with 1:13 left. Rozell dropped in a field goal for a 79-77 advantage with 1:05 remaining, setting the stage for the final Lappe 3-pointer.
The ball found Lappe’s hands again. He didn’t hesitate and canned a corner 3-pointer for an 80-79 lead with 50 seconds left. Lappe, once again, hit the 3-pointer over the outstretched arms of a Warner defender.
“I think sometimes you just get on a roll like that and you can’t help but just believe that no matter what you kind of contested shot it is -- it’s going in,” said Lappe, who now teaches and coaches at Spearfish High School.
Lappe scored 11 points in the final flurry and set a then-tournament record with 99 points through the three games. He also hit a then-tournament record 13 3-pointers over the three contests.
“When the game was on the line, he rose to the challenge and he succeeded every time we needed him to rise to that challenge,” said Marso, who now teaches and coaches at Highmore-Harrold. “... He’s the man. He was the man at the end of the game.”
Marso and Lappe cemented the championship at the free-throw line. After Marso’s free throws made it 82-79 with 21 seconds left, Welke misfired on a 3-pointer and Lappe corralled the rebound. Harrold coach and Lappe’s stepfather, Dennis Bauer, called a timeout before Lappe sealed the championship. But Lappe didn’t want the timeout and stayed on the court pacing around the free-throw line.
“I didn’t need to hear any encouraging words,” Lappe said. “I knew what to do. I knew the situation. I just wanted to get up there and do it right away.”
The wait was worth it. Lappe finished 12 of 12 at the free-throw line and the last two capped off the thriller.
“In the moment, we had no idea what we did,” Lappe said. “It was quite honestly the first tournament we had won since elementary school. So we didn’t quite understand how to cut down nets and do all that stuff. We were kind of living in the moment.”
The moment was lost in time for many years. The game was not broadcast live on television and was only carried by a few radio stations. Years later, the Harrold Booster Club dubbed Rod Fisher and Roger Gilmore’s radio call with the game film and converted it to a DVD. Volga’s George Kiner sells copies of the DVD for $20 and the proceeds benefit The South Dakota Coaches Against Cancer.
The SDPB Sports recently posted the game on its Facebook page and it has close to 31,000 views, which helps it continue to stand the test of time.
“It’s really cool that it’s 30 years out now and people are still talking about it and has that residence with people,” Lappe said. “I just think of my teammates. I think of my coaches. I think of my parents. The whole town quite honestly and how much it meant to everybody.”