BILLINGS – Hardin and Billings Central have already played inside Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark twice this regular season. Let’s make it three and raise the stakes.
The Rams and Bulldogs will meet Saturday night for the Eastern A super-divisional boys basketball title after splitting the earlier showdowns.
Top-seeded Hardin bolted to a 12-0 lead, then held off an unintimidated Livingston team 53-41 in Friday night’s late semifinal, which included Famous Lefthand scoring his 1,000th career point on an early 3-pointer. Lefthand accounted for 14 points in the first half and led everybody with 27 total.
Livingston answered Hardin’s early run with a run of its own to draw within 23-21 at the break. The Rangers briefly took a 26-25 lead midway through the third quarter, but Hardin instantly countered with an 11-0 run to close the quarter.
Livingston played a deliberate half-court offense attempting to slow the fast-breaking Bulldogs, but Hardin’s pressure defense won out, forcing 10 turnovers in the first half and 21 for the game.
Danner Purkett led the Rangers in scoring with 16.
Meanwhile, in the early semifinal, every player on Billings Central’s roster scored during a 65-27 win over Miles City.
The Rams powered their way to a 17-8 lead after one and increased it to 31-16 at half. Central’s biggest quarter was in the third when it outscored Miles City 20-6. The Rams led by as many as 42 in the fourth.
Seth Sasich led Central in scoring with 12 points followed by Chrishon Dixon with 11. Miles City was led by Kaden Stradley with 10.
Miles City will play Laurel in a 10:30 a.m. loser-out game Saturday. Livingston faces Sidney in the same time slot at Rocky Mountain College.
With four boys teams advancing from this divisional, Saturday morning’s winners will each qualify for the State A tournament in Great Falls.