BILLINGS – The Hardin Bulldogs can score. That’s never been a problem. But it also hasn’t gotten them anywhere meaningful in over 20 years.
So their head coach knew something had to change last off-season.
“I really did challenge them because I knew they could be better than they think they can be,” Hardin head coach Andrew Round Face said, “and I think that’s all they needed was just to be challenged a little bit.”
The challenge was to improve a press defense from annoying to stifling.
“(It) has to have more intensity in it, and we didn’t have a lot of intensity before, the last couple of years, and we haven’t had the size and the quickness we have this year,” Round Face said. “Absolutely, that’s been our bread and butter.”
The Bulldogs smother opponents, regularly forcing 20 plus turnovers a game. Most recently, they held Belgrade scoreless for an entire quarter in Saturday’s Eastern A championship.
“Press was pressuring them very good, I’d like to give a shout out to my teammates for that,” David Evans smiled after Saturday’s title win. “Our defense likes to get stops more than buckets.”
One of those teammates is sophomore Famous Left Hand, who routinely guards the opposing team’s best player. And he relishes the opportunity.
“It’s just to play smart,” Left Hand said of his style. “I watch the great defensive players. Defense creates offense is what it does.”
And as everybody knows, defense wins championships. Hardin has one title – but not the one they want.
“Our main goal is to take State, but one step is just taking divisionals,” said Evans.
“It’s a stepping stone,” chimed in Left Hand, “a stepping stone just how they always say. And the next one is the final step.”
“This is a special moment, I wanted them to enjoy it,” Round Face said after the win. “But this is just a stepping stone just for us to get to the next spot. We have so many steps we have to go before we get to the state tournament, before we get to the state title game, and before we win it.”
Not nearly as many as it takes opponents to get through the Bulldogs.