Lady Bulldogs take second in state Class A

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Photo by Tommy Robinson

Marie Five, post for Hardin’s Lady Bulldogs, eyes the basket during Friday’s semifinal match in Great Falls against the Billings Central Rams. Buoyed by the team posts, Hardin defeated Central by 1 point.

Photo by Tommy Robinson

Hardin post Julianna Takes Horse goes for a shot Saturday during the Class A state championship matchup in Great Falls against Havre’s Blue Ponies.

Hardin’s Lady Bulldog basketball team, for the third consecutive year, has taken second place in the Class A state tournament. As in the 2017-18 season, the Ladies fell to Havre’s Blue Ponies, who employed a strong full-court defense for their 42-36 championship victory.

Despite the loss, Hardin Head Coach Cindy Farmer said the Ladies’ good “character was on display” during the Great Falls tournament from their first game against the Browning Indians last Thursday to their final one on Saturday. Hardin, she said, was “relentless” in its pursuit of the state championship, while players and fans alike showed respect for opponents.

“I’m extremely proud of the girls and the season they had,” Farmer said. “They showed so much courage and determination, especially at that level when you need to step it up.”

Supporting the Ladies were hundreds of fans in the crowd, who Farmer sometimes calls the team’s “sixth man,” giving them energy and disrupting their opponents. The cheering was loud and homemade banners were on display.

“Our crowd is outstanding,” she said, “by far the best in the state.”

Before a packed house in the opening game, Hardin kept a 2-point lead in front of Browning during the first period, then took off with a second-period lead of 23-4 and didn’t look back. The trick to the Ladies’ eventual 71-29 win, Farmer said, was to slow down the Indians’ fast pace and throw them off their tempo.

“They came ready to play,” she said of the Ladies. “Our defensive pressure just created so much offense.”

Hardin post Marie Five managed a double-double with the most individual points at 22 and the most of 27 total rebounds with 10. Of her free throws, she scored all eight. Following Five in points were guards Ivery Fritzler with 14 and Kamber Good Luck with 12.

The second game, played Friday against the Billings Central Rams, was decided by 1 point and showcased work from “the bigs,” or team posts. Julianna Takes Horse – not normally a high-scoring post – shined during the game with 11 points, all of which were crucial to the Ladies’ 44-43 victory. The only person with more was Five at 16 points.

“They just really made [the Rams] uncomfortable and didn’t let them get into a rhythm,” Farmer said of her posts, who also include Bergan Realbird and Charlie Bellrock. “It came down to a last possession. We missed a couple free throws and Central had a chance at the last shot. It went our way.”

At divisionals, Billings Central had managed to break Havre’s 44-game winning streak on Feb. 23, but it was not to be for the Ladies on Saturday. As with Hardin’s last matchup against Havre, defenses were tight and scores low.

Hardin was unable to sink a basket for about five minutes during the game, Farmer said – though the Ladies still managed to keep within about 2 points of the Blue Ponies. Then, she continued, Havre shot two 3-pointers and “gave that separation.” The final score was 36-42.

“The girls battled back and still had chances, but they couldn’t get anything to fall,” Farmer said. “They were good shots, too.”

Five was top shooter for the game with 13 points, followed again by Takes Horse with 9, and forward/post LaRae Wallace with 6.

Five, for her efforts, was awarded a spot on the first all-conference and all-state teams. Fritzler and Good Luck, meanwhile, gained spots on the second all-conference team. Realbird was recognized with an honorable mention.

This season, Farmer said, was “outstanding,” with a record of 20 wins, four losses, and “tremendous effort by everybody.” This year, varsity players set to graduate are Realbird; guards Cailei Cummins, Mashaya Alden and Christa Little Wolf; and forward and post Deidra Don’t Mix. This means the team likely will have 10 returning players to suit up for next season.

“Their goal, from the summer, was to make it back to the championship game,” Farmer said. “Their courage and determination is something to be admired.”

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