Dawson Fowler scored 19 points and Easton Page came off the bench to add 15 as the Belgrade boys’ basketball beat Hardin, 68-67, in a loser-out game of the State Class A Tournament, Friday afternoon at the Butte Civic Center.

The however, wasn’t complete until the Panthers overcame an early deficit, a late comeback attempt, a pair of double technical and a chirpy second half.

Hardin had some obstacles of its own, primarily an injury to big-man Darnell Left Hand, who crumpled to the floor after a fight for a rebound midway through the third quarter.

Hardin, as usual, jumped out to an early lead but Belgrade fought its way back to end the first quarter tied at 17.

“I think they were just outhustling us at the start,” Fowler said. “Once we started hustling back and getting in the groove it was more about our tempo and not their tempo.”

The Panthers controlled the action through the second quarter and led by 14 in the third when it appeared that the wheels had come off of Hardin’s offense.

With Left Hand out, Virgil McCormick hoisted his teammates onto his shoulders and led the Bulldogs to on a 15-1 run that tied the score at 53 with 6:01 to play.

Foul trouble caught up to the Bulldogs, however, as they spent a lot of their energy in making it a close game.

The Panthers made the big shots down the stretch and were able to escape with the win.

“My main goal is to do it for the seniors,” Fowler added. “I wanted to win at the state tournament for them.

“And I want to be the bad guy. I want to knock these other teams out and go as far as we can.”

The Bulldogs were led by Left Hand, who returned late in the fourth quarter. He finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds. McCormick also had 21 points for Hardin.

Trey Layman also had a double-double for the Panthers, finishing with 10 points and 10 defensive rebounds.

Polson 51, Hamilton 45

Matthew Rensvold scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds, leading the real Polson boys’ basketball team to a 51-45 win over Hamilton in a loser-out game of the State Class A Tournament on Saturday.

Polson turned in a subpar performance in a loss to Billings Central in their opening game on Thursday but bounced back the way the team knew it could.

“We just didn’t play very well yesterday,” Rensvold said of Thursday’s 57-37 loss to the Rams. “It was nerves, probably more than anything. We had a talk about it (Thursday) night and we were going to come out and play well the whole game.”

Both teams turned in a performance that was worthy of the state tournament but the Pirates happened to have one more run in them.

Polson took a two-point lead into the second half and came away with a 37-33 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

An 8-2 run by Hamilton, capped off by Hunter Omlid’s 3-point basket with 4:25 to play tied the score at 41. Carter Kearns put the Broncs in front moments later with a pair of free throws but the Pirates fought back.

Tanner Wilson hit a 3 with 1:37 to play that put Polson back in front for good. The Pirates closed out the game by hitting key free throws.

“We had to play hard and win,” Rensvold added. “We couldn’t let them dictate the game. We knew they were going to hit 3s but we knew we had to get inside because we were bigger than them.

“We needed to go out there and get a win for our confidence and for everybody to be confident going into (Saturday).

Tanner Goligoski scored 13 points, and Kearns added 10 to lead the Broncs in what turned out to be their final game of the season.

Jaydon Bautista also scored in double-figures for the Pirates, closing out the game with 14 points.

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