BOZEMAN – Two games. Five overtimes. 343 combined points. Hardin and Central’s boys have thrilled us this year, so it’s only fitting the two meet one final time to settle the score, with the State A title on the line.
“I’m trying to stay calm. It’s hard to keep it in, but I’m trying to keep it in for the boys,” said Hardin head coach Andrew Round Face at Saturday morning’s shoot-around. “I don’t want them to see me being nervous or panicking or anything like that, so I really have to try to keep my poker face on as much as I can. I’ve been spending a lot of time alone in my room, trying to go through everything mentally, just getting ready. But it’s an unbelievable feeling to finally make it here, to finally be back, just amazing.”
“We feel that the mutual respect is there between these two teams, and it’s fitting that we meet each other this year in the State championship,” said Central head coach Jim Stergar. “Even though we’ve had numerous losses – with our schedule that’s the way it is usually every year – but we’re looking forward to it. This is the way it’s supposed to be.”
Round Face agrees Central should be Hardin’s final hurdle.
“We’ve really pushed each other,” said the Hardin coach. “We’ve pushed each other’s limits, we’ve found each other’s weaknesses, we know each other’s strengths, so it should be this way.”
It’s the third straight State A title game Central has played in, but the Rams haven’t won a championship since 1996.
“You know, getting here is an accomplishment,” said Stergar. “We would like to win one. Only one team gets to win it every year, but does that mean the other 21 or whatever schools in Class A didn’t have a successful season? I think that’s wrong when people say that.
“You don’t have to win a state title to be successful. We’ve got a great team here, great kids, great community at Billings Central, and what we’ve done up to this point has been pretty dang special, and this would be the icing on the cake.”
Hardin will likely have more fans in the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse, as one of the best traveling fan bases in the state.
“Having everybody here really does take a lot of pressure off of us because we’re not feeling like we’re on somebody else’s turf,” said Round Face. “Everywhere we go it’s our building, and our fans make sure it’s our building. Having them there takes all the pressure off of us, and it gives us a little more energy, a little bit more confidence in everything that we do.”
“Hopefully both teams can come out and perform the way that they did the last two times, because they were pretty good games to watch as a fan, to coach in, to compete in,” said Stergar. “But when it comes down to it, it’s 32 minutes tonight, and that’s what’s going to determine it. Not anything that happened in the past, not anything that happened during the season, not even anything that happened in this tournament. It’s now, this is the night, you’ve got to do it now.”
The State A championship is set for an 8:00 p.m. tipoff.