Sunday, June 25, 2017

Hardin post player Aubrey Meiwald (left) low fives her fellow players and coaches in the Billings Rimrock Auto Arena as she is introduced to begin Saturday’s match with Havre. Pictured at the end of the line is Head Coach Cindy Farmer.

DIVISION CHAMPS

Lady Bulldogs achieve Eastern A victory through good discipline, defense
Years of effort and dedication by Head Coach Cindy Farmer and her Hardin sports teams have been paying off in the 2016-17 season, first one run at a time and now one game at a time. 
 
Disciplined shooting and defense by Havre’s Blue Ponies could not stop Hardin’s Lady Bulldog basketball team, who cemented their place at the top of Eastern A Saturday evening with a 50-39 victory. The Havre match in the Billings Rimrock Auto Arena was the last of three games for Hardin, and cheers erupted through the stands when  the final buzzer rang and  the Ladies ended the night as Eastern A division champions.
 
“Each team was different, but we just had to stay focused,” Farmer said. “They needed to trust their teammates, trust what we were doing and play consistently for 32 minutes.”
 
This is the first time Hardin has conquered divisionals since 1995. Four months earlier, Farmer’s girls cross-country team won the Class A championship for the first time in 25 years.
 
While competing in basketball games and races require different skill sets, Farmer approaches both competitions with the same outlook – prioritize the team as a whole and begin with small steps. In cross-country, she stresses that runners keep together with their teammates for lower “pack times.” In basketball, she stresses the fundamentals, such as catching rebounds and sinking free throws.
 
Guard and forward Madisan Chavez, well-acquainted with pack times when she led the girls to their cross-country championship, has plenty of experience behind the free throw line both in practice and during conference play.
 
“She just pushes it, pushes it, pushes it,” Chavez said, regarding Farmer on the subject of free throws. “It shows in the games, because we’re way better at our free throws now.”
 
Hardin had a 77 percent success rate for their free throws last week in matches with Havre, Belgrade and Glendive. Using just these stats, this average would place them 17th among 30 NBA teams for the 2016-17 season – above the Houston Rockets and below the New York Knicks.
 
The Hardin-Havre match-up pitted the Ladies against a team who was, in many ways, similar to themselves. Though the Ladies maintained a slight lead over the Blue Ponies for the majority of the game, the score slipped in Havre’s favor 13-14 near the beginning of the second quarter.
 
Describing their playing style, Chavez said Havre was “really fundamentally sound.”
 
“We weren’t picking up on it,” added post player Aubrey Meiwald. “It took a while for us to kick it in.” 
 
The Ladies weren’t behind for long, however, tying the score 15-15 by the five minute mark and pulling ahead. From that point on, Havre would approach Hardin’s score, but never quite surpass it. Crucial to keeping the Blue Ponies back was the Bulldog defense, who would swarm each opponent as they tried to maneuver the ball.
 
Havre, Farmer said, was a “half court” team and used to a slower style of play. Through employing a full-court press when on defense, she continued, the Ladies took the Blue Ponies “out of their comfort zone” as they attempted to set up their offense.
 
“Offense only wins games,” Chavez said. “Defense wins championships.”
 
Montana High School Association’s state girls basketball championship is scheduled from March 2-4 in the Butte Civic Center. The Ladies’ first game, against Hamilton, is set for 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 2.
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