Hardin takes second in state following close matchup against Havre

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Photo by Julie O’Dell

Hardin guard player Sharmayne Hardy hugs Head Coach Cindy Farmer following the Lady Bulldogs’ 48-40 victory over Butte Central at the Class A state tournament in Great Falls on Friday.

Photo by Julie O’Dell

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Top left:
David Long Sioux (center) cheers for the Lady Bulldogs with the Hardin crowd during the Class A state tournament.

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Photo by Julie O’Dell

Hardin guard Karissa DuShane goes for a shot last Thursday during the Lady Bulldogs’ first Class A state tournament game, where they faced Columbia Falls.

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Though “you always want to take home the gold,” according to Hardin Head Coach Cindy Farmer, she believes her Lady Bulldog basketball team did “pretty darn good” last weekend when they finished second at Great Falls in Class A state.

As the basketball season winds down for another year, both the girls’ and boys’ varsity have managed to make it to the Class A championship round – last week, the boys took first in state following a victory over Billings Central.

“It really represents all the hard work that our coaches are doing, our kids are doing, our student body and our staff,” Hardin Athletic Director Mike Erickson said. “Winning is the byproduct.”

On several occasions during season play, when game scores drew close, Erickson said he found “the cheerleader side of me” and helped pump up the Hardin crowd. According to Erickson, the effort shown by Bulldog players “just brings our community together.”

Throughout the state tournament, Farmer noted, cheering from Hardin’s fans helped keep the Ladies on track. For one push in particular, when Hardin overcame a halftime deficit against Butte Central for a 48-40 win, an article from 406 MT Sports posited, “In a tale of two halves, the difference just might’ve been the orange-clad folks who weren’t on the court.”

“Hardin had their sixth man erupt,” Central Coach Meg Murphy told 406. “That really changed the game, to be honest with you. Our kids panicked a bit.”

The only team to beat the Ladies, as in the divisional championship, was the Havre Blue Ponies, who managed to remain undefeated this season with 24 wins. In facing the Ladies at the state championship on Saturday, Havre once again employed their zone-to-zone defense and often prevented Hardin players from getting a good shot at the basket.

At state, Hardin’s field goal percentages in their victories against Columbia Falls and Butte Central were 38 percent and 40 percent respectively. In the Havre matchup, it dropped to 19 percent.

Hardin, in turn, kept Havre busy with their aggressive player-to-player style defense and sank their highest free throw percentage of the tournament at 72 percent, or 18 of 25 shots. This more than doubled their 27 percent rate from when they played the Blue Ponies for the divisional championship.

Guard Karissa DuShane led the Ladies in shots with 10 points, followed by post Aiyanna Ereaux with 9 and center Arena Plenty with 7.

Hardin eventually would fall to Havre in a 42-35 loss, but not before they ended the first half ahead 18-17. For most of the game, both teams were neck-and-neck until Havre took the lead in the fourth quarter, with a point spread that period of 18-12 in the Blue Ponies’ favor.

“It was a great game; I think there were eight ties throughout the game,” Farmer said. “The lead change was never more than by 2 or 3 points until that final couple minutes when we had to start fouling to get the ball back.”

Overall, Farmer said, she believes the Ladies “had an outstanding season.” It will be difficult to fill the spots for seven senior players set to graduate this year, she continued, but it’s a regular part of the team-building process.

At the close of this season, she expressed gratitude for her players and their work.

“The girls certainly are a class act,” she said, “both on and off the court.”