The Dillon boys’ basketball team didn’t merely win its first game at the State Class A Tournament on Friday.
The Beavers survived it.
Hardin High gave Dillon all it could handle but a few missed shots and key mistakes down the stretch was the Bulldogs’ undoing.
A steal and ensuing layup by Troy Andersen with three seconds remaining in the game sealed the Beavers’ 60-55 win over the Bulldogs at the Butte Civic Center.
The Beavers improved to 22-0 on the season and won their 35th straight game dating back to last season. But they’ll settle for 3-0 this weekend.
“This forces you to execute every facet of your game, from offense, defense, rebounding to running the floor, to attacking presses,” Dillon coach Terry Thomas said of Thursday’s matchup against the Bulldogs. “This game included about everything a game can include. And that is good for us. It was a game in which we had to fight from behind and there is nothing wrong with that.”
The Bulldogs weren’t the least bit intimidated by the Beavers or their record. They bounced out to a 7-0 lead by using the run-and-gun offense that they’re known for. They also kept the pressure on Dillon’s offense, making the Beavers fight for every point.
Dillon scored the next five points but Hardin kept on plugging away. The Bulldogs led, 18-12, after the first quarter, and extended it to 23-14 on a 3-point basket by Darnell Left Hand early in the second.
“Hardin was very athletic, very aggressive, very fast and very skilled so it took a few minutes to try to manage the speed-level of what was going on out there,” Thomas said. “They hit their couple of shots so they got some momentum and we missed our first couple of shots. That made it a little bit tougher but the kids did a good job in not panicking and staying the course and making sure that they played within themselves.”
Tanner Haverfield and his brother, Michael, were instrumental in keeping Dillon within reach. Tanner scored 10 points in the first half, with Michael netting seven.
Andersen scored his first points of the game with 2:49 left in the second quarter, using a twisting layup that got the Beavers to within one point. It was his 3-pointer early in the third quarter, however, that gave Dillon its first lead at 29-28.
“We knew that they were good,” Andersen said of the Bulldogs. “We watched them on film and throughout the year they’ve been playing some really good basketball. We knew it would be a challenge.
“When they got out early on us we tried to stay the course and chip away slowly and we got it done.
Coach Thomas does a phenomenal job of keeping us level-headed and trying to not ride the roller coaster of the game. As long as we do that, we know that we can trust him.”
The teams spent the rest of the game going back and forth on offense and defense.
The Beavers took a 34-30 lead on a rebound and putback by Michael Haverfield but the Bulldogs took the lead back minutes later on a layup by Holman Real Bird.
Tanner Haverfield’s 3-pointer put the Beavers back in front, 39-37, with 2:37 to play in the quarter but Hardin regained the lead on its next possession when Famous Left Band hit a 3 from the left wing.
Left Hand added a basket with 1:47 left in the third to give Hardin a 42-39 advantage, only to have Michael Haverfield the score with another 3.
Tanner Haverfield added a pair of free throws with 52.3 seconds left to give Dillon a two-point cushion.
Cracks started to appear for Hardin moments later when a missed layup allowed the Beavers to take their 44-42 lead into the fourth quarter.
Dillon turned the tables on Hardin in the fourth quarter by opening up a 50-42 lead, on a steal and layup by Andersen, and forcing Hardin to play from behind.
The Bulldogs did their best – scoring seven straight points to make it a one-point game – but the Beavers responded accordingly.
The Bulldogs had a final chance to tie the score when they trailed by three points in the final seconds but Andersen intercepted a pass with 7 seconds remaining and scored the Beavers’ final basket four seconds later. He finished with 15 points, 11 of which came in the second half.
Andersen’s basket was the only field goal for Dillon in the game’s final 6 minutes, 15 seconds. The Beavers went 7 for 10 from the free-throw line during that stretch.
Darnell Left Hand and Real Bird led the Bulldogs with 12 points apiece, while Famous Left Hand and David Evans each added 11.
“We just made a few mistakes at the end and you can’t make a mistake against Dillon,” Hardin coach Andrew RoundFace said. “They’re going to capitalize if you do.
“We came out, we were rolling and we kind of relaxed a little bit. We’ve been doing that throughout the season and it got us in trouble. We let them get back into it. We just relaxed a little bit.”
The Beavers will play against Butte Central in Friday semifinal game at 6:30 p.m. The Beavers have beaten the Maroons twice this season.