Beavers hold off Hardin in wild State A opener

By Bruce Sayler

Hardin and Dillon tipped off in the opener to the state Class A high school boys’ basketball tournament Thursday, and a lot of eyes were opened. Quickly.

Anyone who blinked missed something in Dillon’s 60-55 win in the Butte Civic Center. The victory kept this year’s Beavers, the defending champions, undefeated at 22-0. They will play Butte Central  Friday at 6:30 p.m.  in the semifinals. Hardin will play Belgrade in the 12:30 Friday loser-out game. Butte Central defeated Belgrade 48-38 Thursday. Stats

The win wasn’t sealed until Troy Anderson reached back to his football stardom legend and picked off a pass. Hardin trailed 58-55 when point guard Virgil McCormick tried to throw to a teammate stationed near the midcourt line after David Evans had rebounded a Dillon free throw miss.

Anderson jumped the pass en route, and took it to the hoop for a clinching layup with 4 seconds left on the clock.

“I could feel it coming, I could see his eyes,” the 6-foot-4 Montana State football-bound Anderson said. “I wanted to make a play to help my teammates. I was just trying to get it (the layup) done and pull out the win.”

The Bulldogs could then do nothing else but watch the last ticks melt off the clock.

The win was accompanied by another Dillon tradition. The players are sporting mustaches.

“We’ve been doing it for quite a few years (mustaches at state),” Anderson said, smiling. “It’s a tradition.”

The result put a smile on the face of the Beavers’ coaches.

“I didn’t think it was a great draw for winning the divisional championship,” Terry Thomas, longime head coach of the Beavers said, with a laugh of relief. “But, I think their are eight good teams here. It was a good first game for us, though. We wanted to emphasize every facet (right away) — running the floor, defense, rebounding, everything.”

Fans saw about everything and a lot of it.

Hardin awed early with a 7-0 run to start the game. David Evans scored the first four off passes from Holman Real Bird and McCormick. Dillon scored the next five, two — Kyson Wilson free throws, followed by a Tanner Haverfield three-point play — and the rhythm was decidedly uptempo.

“They were definitely challenging us and we’re just trying to take it one session at a time,” Anderson said. “We knew they would come out fast against us.”

Verified.

“It’s pretty hard when you haven’t seen somebody play,” Thomas said. “They were very fast, very aggressive and very skilled. So, it took a few minutes to manage their speed.

“As the game started and developed, we started to loosen up and knock down some shots, and play our game.”

A first adjustment was the players’ call, Thomas said, as the Beavers opted to try to penetrate more when they were missing from outside. So, Hardin was ahead 18-12 after one quarter.

“We have great shooters,” Thomas said. “When their shots didn’t fall, we took the ball to the basket. Attacking the basket and drawing some fouls helped get us some points.”

The Bulldogs built the lead to 23-14 after a 3-point basket by Darnell Left Hand with 5 minutes, 44 seconds left in the first half. Dillon began slicing into the key for layups and drawing shooting fouls.

Tanner Haverfield and Anderson scored four points each in a surge that put the gap at 28-24. Wilson then tallied off an Anderson pass and Hardin’s edge was 28-26 at halftime.

Dillon didn’t abandon the press, but changed up with its man-to-man and vaunted 1-3-1 zone on the defensive end.

“The press gave us some good things early,” Thomas said. “Then, we felt it wouldn’t, so we adjusted to more zone and man. We challenged the shooters better when we were in zone.”

The Beavers snagged their first lead when Anderson canned a 3-pointer 45 seconds into the second half. Jamey Richardson stretched the strings on Dillon’s next trip back down the court and the Beavers had a 32-28 advantage.

They were behind only two more times. The first was 37-36 after Real Bird tallied on a fast break with 3:59 to go in the third quarter. Tanner Haverfield returned the lead to the Beavers with a 3-pointer. Hardin went ahead for the last time on consecutive buckets by the Left Hands. Freshman Famous Left Hand buried a 3-pointer from near the hotdog stand, and senior Darnell Left Hand downed a floater from the paint.

So, it was a 42-39 Hardin lead. Michael Haverfield wiped it out with a 3-pointer after a pass from Anderson. Tanner Haverfield converted two foul shots and the Beavers owned a 44-42 advantage when the fourth quarter began.

Anderson rampaged. The reigning Class A sprints champ showed his speed. He knocked down a jumper from just inside the arc, took a fast-break pass for a layup and then executed a steal and layup for a personal six-point run that opened Dillon’s margin to 50-42.

However, Hardin answered. Real Bird swished a 3-point shot, Darnell Left Hand performed a steal-and-layin, and Famous Left Hand caged a basket on a fast break. It was a one-point gae, 50-49, with 5:21 on the clock.

The Beavers returned to their penetration game. Michael Haverfield sank four straight charity tosses and his older brother, Tanner, netted one. The difference was back to six points, 55-50, Dillon’s favor, with 2:49 showing.

Evans hit a free throw for Hardin and McCormick followed with a 10-foot jumper. Tanner Haverfield took the gap back to five points with two made freebies. Famous Left Hand gunned in a 3-pointer and Dillon’s lead was just 57-55 with 1:16 to go.

The Beavers slowed the tempo. So, McCormick fouled Tanner Haverfield to stop the clock and to attempt to gain Hardin possession of the ball. Haverfield made the first three throw with 31 seconds and the Evans rebounded the miss.

Hardin worked some time off the clock and then called a timeout with 18 seconds remaining, looking to set up a tying shot. However, Anderson intercepted the pass.

Tanner Haverfield led Dillon scoring with 19 points, Michael Haverfield had 16 and Anderson 10. Anderson also finished with four steals. Wilson put in six points, Richardson three and Andrew LeMieux tallied a free throw. Coby King, R.J. Fitzgerald and Clay Allison also played.

Hardin is now 15-10 for the season. The Bulldogs were led by Real Bird and DArnell Left Hand with 12 points each, and Famous Left Hand and Evans with 11 apiece. McCormick dealt seven assists, and Darnell Left Hand pulled down 14 rebounds — 11 on the defensive end.

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