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Hardin celebrates

Hardin coach Andrew Round Face, far left, and the rest of Hardin's bench celebrate during its State A championship game against Billings Central last March in Bozeman at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. Hardin defeated Central 47-43 to win its first title since 1997.

Class A boys basketball

2017-18 top three: 1) Hardin, 2) Billings Central, 3) Hamilton

2018-19 storyline

Yes, the defending champion Bulldogs graduated David Evans and his 17 points and 10 rebounds per game. But coach Andrew Round Face gave a trio of sophomores – Famous Lefthand, Trae Hugs and Cayden Redfield – a heavy dose of responsibility, as well, and they’re all back to make sure Hardin doesn’t take a step backward. Billings Central has reached the title game each of the last three seasons, and there’s little reason to believe the Rams won’t cast a large shadow again this season. The question for them is can they win that one extra game? That said, neither Hardin nor Central will have an easy path in an Eastern A that will feature tough Lewistown and Laurel clubs, among others. Meanwhile, elsewhere, Hamilton and Butte Central return plenty of experience from state-tournament teams a year ago. Hamilton might have a different look from last year’s squad that finished in third place with a 26-1 record, but the Broncs will still be a dangerous team, as evidenced by their 76-40 season-opening win over Class AA Missoula Big Sky last weekend. They return Tanner Goligoski, who hit nine 3-pointers in one game last season, Boise State baseball recruit Hunter Omlid, and a handful of athletes who help make a run at the Class A football title this fall.

One big number

11: That’s how many points separated Hardin and Billings Central in the three games they played last season, including the Bulldogs’ 47-43 championship win. Hardin won the first regular-season meeting 97-87 in triple overtime, and the Rams returned the favor 81-78 in double overtime in the second meeting.

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