Hardin defeats Shepherd, wields improved defense for victory over Central

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Photo by Andrew Turck

Hardin players react Saturday to a point run in the third quarter, where they managed to gain a 33-26 lead over Billings Central at MetraPark.

Photo by Andrew Turck

Lady Bulldog guard and forward Sossity Spotted Wolf looks for a good shooting angle during Hardin’s matchup with the Billings Central Rams.

Before the main event Saturday at MetraPark in Billings, Hardin’s Lady Bulldog basketball team sharpened its skills Friday against the Shepherd Mustangs in a non-conference home game, where it claimed a 75-21 victory.

The matchup with Shepherd, according to Hardin Head Coach Cindy Farmer, featured “a lot of different rotations,” where nearly every one of her players added points to the scoreboard. Starting fast with their usual full-court press, she said, the Ladies “jumped out” 23-8 by the end of the first quarter and, from there, never looked back.

Guard Kamber Good Luck was the top shooter for Hardin with 14 points, and guard Mashaya Alden and center Marie Five tied for second at 11.

Saturday, facing off against Billings Central in a stadium before a crowd of hundreds, the Ladies knew they would be in for a fight. Central’s Rams, after all, also move with a full-court press and aren’t dissuaded by difficult quarters and scoring deficits.

Hardin has lost only two conference games thus far this season – one against Laurel on Dec. 21 and the second against Central on Jan. 5. Since then, the team reversed the tide on the road to eight consecutive wins – defeating Laurel on Jan. 25 and then taking the Central game 44-41.

“This was great because now they have that confidence,” Farmer said of the Ladies. “They can play with anybody.”

As indicated by the small point separation, the Ladies-Rams matchup was not without its challenges. Both teams had their opponents nearly locked down from the start and, for about the first four minutes, neither Hardin nor Central managed to sink a basket. When compared to the Ladies’ previous game against the Rams, Farmer continued, “their defensive intensity changed the tone.”

Hardin eked out an 8-3 lead in the first quarter, but it was tarnished near the last second when a Ram player – off a foul – sank two free throws. To begin the second quarter, the referees called a technical foul on Hardin and Central shot two more free throws, both successful. The score was now 8-7 and the Ladies were losing momentum.

“The first half, we shot 19 percent from the field,” Farmer said, “and

we were down by four at halftime.”

Moving into the third quarter, Farmer said, Hardin’s “aggressiveness and our press really threw Central off.” A 3-pointer by Good Luck, followed almost immediately with a 2-point shot by Alden brought the Ladies ahead 18-17 as cheers from Hardin fans filled the stadium.

The Ladies ended the third with a 33-26 lead overall, but the Rams persisted.

Throughout the matchup, Central had made good use of its free throws, sinking 17 of its 22 – or 78 percent. Hardin had a more difficult time, making five of its 11 available free throws – or 45 percent. Due to the Ladies’ difficulties in this regard, the Rams had a chance to gain on them in the fourth.

With fewer than 10 seconds left on the clock, a basket by the Rams set the score 41-43. Cheers from Hardin fans momentarily were replaced by those of Central.

The Rams sealed their fate, however, when a player fouled Alden and sent her to the free throw line with 0.8 second to go. She made one of two, then the game was over.

Five claimed the top score for Hardin with 17 points, followed by Alden and Good Luck with five each.

Hardin will play a home game against Lodge Grass on Thursday, Feb. 7, followed by a second home game Saturday against Lewistown.