The Lodge Grass Indians hosted the Hardin Bulldogs at the First Interstate Bank Arena Wednesday, Jan. 26 in a quick-moving game determined at the free throw line. The game started off with a lot of energy as both teams traded baskets and were deadlocked at 8 just two minutes into the game.
Jadence Archilta attacked the rim and scored 6 straight points for the Bulldogs and capped off an 11-2 run with an old fashioned three-point play, giving Hardin a 19-10 lead with 3:39 left in the quarter. Ty Moccasin answered with a 3, before Damon Gros Ventre took his first shot of the game and swished a trey of his own with 1:36 left.
That basket got the Indians within 7 after Hardin grabbed the only double-digit lead of the game off a Troy Hugs basket. Hardin led 29-21 after one period.
Both teams struggled from the field in the second quarter, as they combined to score on just five made field goals. DC Stewart earned multiple trips to the charity stripe, connecting on 4 of 6 to help his team cut into their deficit.
Kingston Hugs scored a nice running layup in transition to stop the bleeding after Lodge Grass made it a two-point game. The fouls mounted in the second quarter for the Bulldogs and Lodge Grass made their free throws count, as they made 9 of 11 in the quarter to grab a 37-36 lead at the half.
The Indians looked like they might run away with the game early in the third, as they built a 45-38 advantage. The Bulldogs were diligent about getting the ball in the paint to Keenan Wuttunee in the second half, as he scored 16 of his 22 points in the third and fourth quarters. Wuttunee scored on a beautiful spin move that resulted in a reverse layup to cut the lead to four, 44-48, with 4:20 left in the third.
Ty Moccasin found Gabe Kelly underneath the basket with an impressive no look pass to get his team a 7-point lead. Troy Hugs then scored 7 straight points for the Bulldogs, getting his team with 1 point at 51-52.
Myron Little Light kept the Bulldogs from regaining the lead with a 3 from the wing, as his team led 58-53 going into the final frame. Hardin opened the fourth on a 10-2 run to gain a 63-60 lead with 6:18 left in the game. Little Light answered again with his third three to knot the score and the team’s traded buckets from there.
Lance Little Nest found space in the corner and hit a 3, giving Lodge Grass a 75-73 lead with 3:19 left in the game, while following that up by forcing a Hardin turnover by taking the charge. Hance Three Irons found an open Wuttunee on a perfectly executed inbounds play to tie the game at 75 with 2:44 remaining.
Three Irons used his defensive pressure to create an Indian turnover, but he was unable chase the ball down in time to get it to a teammate and the ball landed Stewart’s hands who then found an open Gros Ventre who attacked the rim for a two-handed slam and an Indian advantage. Hardin had the ball go in and out of the rim as they looked to score in a hurry and Lodge Grass slowed the pace a bit.
Moccasin drove through the lane and was fouled on his shot attempt, hitting both free throws to increase the Indian lead. Lodge Grass looked to burn the clock, but the Bulldogs forced a jump ball and a steal on consecutive possessions, but were unable to capitalize on offense.
Ty Moccasin hit the dagger as he found an open lane to the basket with 29 seconds remaining, putting the Indians up 81-76. The Bulldogs looked to score but it took a little too long to get a shot off, as Antonio Espinoza snapped a corner 3 to cut the lead to 2 points with 3.9 seconds. Stewart was fouled on the ensuing inbound and connected on both free throws to secure the victory for the Indians, 83-79.
Lodge Grass had balanced scoring in the victory, led by Gros Ventre’s 21 points. Little Nest added 19 points, while Stewart, Moccasin and Little Light chipped in with 14, 13 and 12 points, respectively.
The Bulldogs were led by Wuttunee with 22 points and Troy Hugs with 21 points. Jadence Archilta added 10, nine of which came in the first quarter.
Lodge Grass is 11-0 on the season, while Hardin moves to 6-7.
The Lodge Grass Indians were looking for the season sweep over the Hardin Bulldogs for the first time since the 2012-13 season. Lodge Grass defeated the Bulldogs that year by scores of 101-75 and 76-63, only to have the rivalry dominated by Hardin in the years to come. Lodge Grass succumbed 15 straight games to the Bulldogs until their 93-90 overtime victory Jan. 30 last year.
Hardin faces the Billings Central Rams on Friday, Jan. 28 at First Interstate Bank Arena starting at 7:30 p.m.
Lodge Grass returns to the Metra for a big showdown with #2 Lame Deer on Wednesday, Feb. 2.