Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Senior Bulldog basketball player David Evans knocks the ball away from the Belgrade Panthers’ defense Saturday evening during the championship game of the Eastern A Divisional Tournament in Billings.Hardin student Journey Erickson (in sunglasses) cheers on the  Bulldogs from the MetraPark stands during the matchup against Belgrade.


Bulldogs pick apart zone-to-zone defense for win over Belgrade
Last week was a busy one for the Hardin Bulldog basketball team as they claimed the top spot of the Boys’ Eastern A Divisional Tournament at MetraPark in Billings, with a final score of 48-39 over the Belgrade Panthers. This is the first time their head coach Andrew Round Face has brought the Bulldogs to a first place win in Eastern A.
“I don’t want to be a buzzkill, but it hasn’t hit me yet,” he said. “Everyone’s been celebrating and happy.”
Hardin players, from the starters to those “off the bench,” pushed through Miles City, then to the semifinals with Laurel, then to the finals using the same strong intensity, according to senior player Codi Small. This, he said, follows Round Face’s emphasis on “one game at a time.”
Thanks to the Bulldogs’ efforts to control the ball and “control the glass” – a term Round Face uses for rebounding, Hardin successfully picked apart Belgrade’s zone-to-zone defense and stayed ahead of their opponents throughout the game.
“We practice that all the time,” Round Face said. “We knew they were going to try to slow us down and so we tried to get them to speed up a little bit.”
Increasing Belgrade’s speed required the Panthers to take shots outside their optimal tempo. If they attempted a shot, Round Face said, “that’s the only one we wanted to give them.”
In the meantime, the Bulldogs coordinated their passes around the Panthers’ defense – if one player couldn’t make the shot, another often was situated for a layup or 3-pointer.
“I told them, ‘It may not be the person next to you, it may have to be a skipped pass, it may have to be to the person inside, but we need to move the ball as quickly as we can,’” Round Face said.
As for going to state, Round Face wants the team to remember “we’re still working, we’re still trying to win, we’re still on the hunt for a title.”
The Bulldogs’ top shooter against Belgrade was Famous Left Hand with 16 points, followed by David Evans and Andrew House with 12.
On Thursday, March 1, Hardin will face Butte Central – ranked fourth in Western A – for the first game of the 2018 State Class A Boys’ Basketball Tournament. The game will take place at 11 a.m. at Montana State University’s Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman, Mont.