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Tanner Haverfield, the Dillon Beavers' leading scorer at 17.5 points per game, and his teammates will spend the weekend in search of their second straight Class A basketball championship.

Alexandria Valdez, The Montana Standard

Basketball has always been a part of in the Haverfield household.

It's rubbed off on Tanner Haverfield.

His parents fostered a love for the sport early on the lives of Haverfield and his younger brother, Michael.

Tanner has grown to adore everything about the sport and has no problems when it comes to pushing himself to his limits.

“I like the hard situations,” he said. “I kind of like conditioning. It sucks, but I like knowing that it’s something that most people don’t want to do. Pushing myself makes my teammates push themselves and we just get better as a group.”

Haverfield and the Beavers are gearing up for their final run of the season as they prepare to successfully defend their State Class A championship, starting Thursday, at the Butte Civic Center.

Haverfield has learned a lot of life's lessons through the world of sports, and one of his earliest came in seventh grade.

In his first football game, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament when he was tackled. Because he was still growing, doctors had to be careful to not hit his growth plate during surgery. They were successful on that end but it also meant Haverfield couldn’t put any weight on his leg.

That meant spending six weeks in a wheel chair. It also meant he couldn't play basketball that winter.

“It was difficult, especially seeing my friends all having fun," he recalled. "But I guess that pushed me more when I got back. I wanted to get back and do my best.”

It was during the summer after seventh grade that Haverfield decided he wanted to excel at basketball. He didn’t play football in the fall, but was able to come out for basketball.

Now at 6-foot-3, Haverfield is at the top of his game. He leads the Beavers in scoring with 17.5 points per game and is second in rebounds with 4.9. Dillon coach Terry Thomas said Haverfield spent time in the gym to develop his shot.

“He does a great job of all facets of the game,” Thomas said. “That allows him to score in a variety of ways. He can score in the open floor, he scores rebounding the basketball and he shoots great free throws. He can hit from the outside and he can take people off the dribble. So when you can score in all those different ways you’re really tough to defend. If you close out too fast he drives by. If you don’t close out soon enough he can knock down the open shot.”

Haverfield is part of a deep Dillon squad that is looking to grab back-to-back Class A titles. The Beavers will take a 21-0 record into this weekend's tournament but in actuality they haven't lost in more than a year.

Dillon's last loss came Jan. 26, 2016 against Helena Capital. The Bruins beat the Beavers, 50-36. The Beavers have won 34 straight games since then.

Thomas said the credit goes to the players’ preparation.

“We’ve been proud that after each game we can say, ‘Hey we gave our best effort.’” Thomas said. “Sometimes the execution may not be there or sometimes we may not shoot as good. But oh boy, when they get out on the floor they’re fun to coach and fun to watch. When you do that night in and night out you give yourself a chance to win.”

The Beavers are averaging 57.7 points per game and shooting 46 percent from the field. They're also averaging 26.8 rebounds and 13.6 assists per game. The Beavers other leading scorer is senior Troy Andersen, who will take a 15.8 points-per-game average and is the leader on glass with 5.1 rebounds.

Dillon has played in the state championship tilt in each of the past three years. In 2014 and 2015, the Beavers took second to Columbia Falls and Laurel, respectively. Last year, the team broke through with a 66-61 victory over Billings Central.

The Beavers are pitted against Hardin in a 12:30 p.m. matchup. Dillon defeated the Bulldogs in last year's semifinals, 65-61.

“It was a great basketball game,” Thomas said. “They do a great job of attacking the basket and rebounding. We feel like we can do the same. So it should be a real exciting game up and down.”

Thomas credits the team’s success to its hard work and senior leadership. He said Haverfield is a great team player and is unselfish with the ball. The coach added that Haverfield's role as a leader allows him to fill any role the team needs, given the situation.

Haverfield has yet to solidify plans after graduation — he hopes they include basketball — but for now his eyes are set on the Beavers' next three games.

“We’ve always had a target on our back ever since I can remember” he said. “It's just because of how well our coaches have done with the program. We’re used to it. So we just try to not worry about it and focus on getting done what we need to get done.”

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