‘32 minutes that will last a lifetime’

Hardin nets first Class A boys’ basketball championship in 21 years
Article Image Alt Text
Hardin senior David Evans reaches up to block a shot from a Billings Central opponent Saturday at the Class A state boys’ basketball championship in Bozeman. Evans was the top shooter for the team with 17 points.
Article Image Alt Text
Sophomore Peyton Good Luck of the Hardin Bulldogs makes a break for it past a Billings Central defender.
Article Image Alt Text

Photos by Julie O’Dell

Hardin boys’ basketball players, coaches and managers display their winning bracket and plaque after taking first place in Class A. From the left – back row: Assistant Coaches Mike Don’t Mix and Justin Hugs; third row: Ra’el Monroy, Aminna Little Light, Shaunita Nomee, Head Coach Andrew Roundface, Andrew House and Mike Don’t Mix Jr.; second row: Peyton Good Luck, Teivon Ramos, Konnolly Shane, Ryan Old Crow and Malik Toure’; and front row: David Evans, Tavian Jefferson, Codi Small, Famous Left Hand, Cayden Redfield and Trae Hugs.

Hardin’s Bulldog basketball team experienced “32 minutes that will last a lifetime,” according to Athletic Director Mike Erickson, as the boys defeated the Billings Central Rams 47-43 on Saturday in Bozeman to claim the Class A state title. Their last title was won in 1997, when they defeated the Dillon Beavers 70-62.

“Our community talks about it like it was yesterday, about the 21 years ago,” Erickson said regarding the Dillon game, “but now we have a new championship team, something that can be handed down and hopefully can continue.”

According to Hardin Head Coach Andrew Round Face, it wouldn’t “have been fitting” to play any team besides the Rams for the state championship.

Out of Hardin’s 23 games this year, Central was the only team to defeat the Bulldogs in a Feb. 3 matchup that went into double overtime with a final score of 78-81. Before that, the Bulldogs defeated the Rams 97-87 in a Jan. 6 game that went into triple overtime.

“I knew it was going to be a hard-fought game,” Round Face said. “I knew we’d meet them somewhere down the road.”

Initially, the Bulldogs fell fast, dropping to a 13-2 deficit in the first three minutes. Despite the early setback, Erickson said, Round Face remained calm as he led the team.

“For him to keep his composure through all of that, at such high stakes, and never change his demeanor caused the kids to really feed off of him,” Erickson said.

Quarter scores in the fastpaced beginning of the game saw Hardin down 12-21 in the first period. During the second period, however, Hardin scored 15 points to Central’s 8. In total, Hardin was down 27-29 by the halftime buzzer.

“A lot of teams would fold underneath that kind of pressure, being down that much in the first couple minutes of the championship game,” Round Face said. “Kids usually lose their head, and then it’s even harder to fight back, but the boys kept their heads in it.

“For us to only be down [2 points] at halftime really says a lot about our character.”

The Bulldogs began to turn the tide in a third quarter that Erickson said, when compared to the first two, was a slower and more “back-andforth” affair. Hardin took the lion’s share of points for the quarter with 6 to Central’s 3. Hardin was now ahead by 1 point at 33-32.

Once they pulled to the front, Hardin maintained their lead as the fourth quarter picked up, separating from Central by 3 more points before the final buzzer. Crucial to their victory were top Bulldog shooters senior David Evans with 17 points, and sophomores Famous Left Hand with 11 and Cayden Redfield with 8.

Six seniors will be graduating from the team this year: Evans, Codi Small, Tavian Jefferson, Ezekiel Coyote Runs, Konnolly Shane and Malik Toure’. Round Face gave a special thanks to them for their efforts.

“It’s an amazing feeling for them,” he said. “I’m glad they get to go out on top.”