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A full 32 minutes: Heart River prevails over Richardton-Taylor in first round of region tournament

SOUTH HEART -- Following a back-and-forth first quarter, Heart River sophomore forward Tyler Kastrow opened the second with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, putting the Cougars up 18-14.

Heart River senior forward Cauy Shypkoski pulls up for a 3-pointer in a Region 7 tournament game against Richardton-Taylor on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at South Heart High School. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)
Heart River senior forward Cauy Shypkoski pulls up for a 3-pointer in a Region 7 tournament game against Richardton-Taylor on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at South Heart High School. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)

SOUTH HEART - Following a back-and-forth first quarter, Heart River sophomore forward Tyler Kastrow opened the second with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, putting the Cougars up 18-14.

His make from deep started a 19-2 run for the home team which helped the No. 8 Cougars defeat No. 9 Richardton-Taylor 67-56 in the opening round of the Region 7 tournament on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at South Heart High School.

Heart River will go on to face No. 1 Dickinson Trinity in the quarterfinals at 2 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Activities Center on Monday, March 4.

"I'm proud of the boys tonight. We came out with intensity," Heart River head coach Erik Klein said. "What I was most proud of, is we played 32 minutes. That's been a problem for us at times this year. We haven't been able to, at times, put four quarters together and tonight I think we did. We've been getting better all year and I'm really excited about going into the tournament now."

In the second game of the season, the Raiders defeated Heart River 57-46 in a non-region matchup at the Roughrider Tournament. On Feb. 8, the Cougars got the best of Richardton-Taylor as they won 67-63 at Belfield High School.

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As to why Heart River emerged as the better team on Tuesday, Raiders assistant coach Jadon Messer said it was quite simple:

"Fundamental basketball," he said. "We couldn't get a rebound and it was due to the fact that we weren't boxing out. We were getting beat on backdoors, not closing out on the shots. It was just fundamental skills and they beat us on it."

In the lengthy, second-quarter Cougars run, junior forward Lane Chruszch added six straight points, then, with five and half minutes before halftime, Cauy Shypkoski took off. After assisting on a basket by Braden Obrigewitch, the senior forward drew a foul on the floor. He hit a 3-pointer as the Cougars got the ball back, then a technical foul sent him to the line immediately after where he sunk the first of two free throws. A possession later, the Raiders stole the ball and dashed down the court, but when they got under the basket, Shypkoski ripped the ball back. His shot missed, but Chruszch picked up the rebound to push the lead to 32-16.

"I pride myself on not just scoring," Shypkoski said. "I try to get assists, rebounds, whatever it takes to help us win. That time, they're probably guarding me pretty tough after I made the shot, so I try to get everybody else the ball and pass it to them."

Shypkoski had 12 points, while Chruszch paced the Cougars with 20 and sophomore guard Preston Walter was close behind with 17.

"We're having more and more people (contribute), other than just a couple players, we're starting to feel comfortable on offense now," Klein said. "That's going to open things up and it's going to help us put more points on the board, which we've struggled with this year."

A 3-pointer from senior center Logan Kuntz halted the Heart River momentum, spurring a small Richardton-Taylor run. Four straight makes from the charity stripe by junior guard Britton Paulson closed the gap to just nine points, 34-25, with 2:10 left in the half. Another three from Logan Kuntz kept the difference to 10, 41-31 at the half.

"What was working well for us when we went on that little run, was taking advantage of that short corner of their 3-2 defense," Messer said. "They only had two guys on the bottom, so if we could get it down to that short corner, we had a pretty good opportunity to get a bucket, (senior forward) Collin (Kuntz) flashing from the high post, or that short corner taking it to the rim, but it was too little, too late."

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With a trio of 3-pointers, Logan Kuntz scored 11 points, while Collin Kuntz led all players with 24

The Raiders made a final push, as a basket from Collin Kuntz cut the advantage to 60-52, but Chruszch powered past the tightening defense to regain a 10-point gap.

"Another thing I was really proud of our boys (for) tonight, was how we responded when Richardton went on runs," Klein said. "We held our composure and we played good basketball together."

Towards the end of the third, Heart River held a 17-point lead, its greatest of the night. However, the Raiders went on another burst to start the fourth.

With 2:25 left, Paulson hit a three to bring the score to 60-50, while Collin Kuntz followed with a bucket to trim the lead to eight points, but that's as small as it would get.

Paulson's range and expanding role in setting the offense in motion offers a glimpse into a Raiders team that graduates six seniors.

"People need to remember what Richardton's been like in the past 10 years," Messer said. "For this group of guys, they really set the foundation for the future. The attitude of the kids every single day now is better because of these seniors. They really showed that Richardton-Taylor can play basketball. We're not the laughing stock of the region anymore and I think because of these seniors, Richardton's going to be back next year."

Heart River 67, Richardton-Taylor 56

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RT 14 17 7 18

HR 15 26 12 14

RT: Collin Kuntz 24, Logan Kuntz 11, Britton Paulson 10, Preston Floberg 4, Elijah Vogle 3, Conner Kuntz 2, Wyatt Kuhn 2.

HR: Lane Chruszch 20, Preston Walter 17, Cauy Shypkoski 12, Tyler Kastrow 7, Braden Obrigewitch 4, Jett Mattson 4, Logan Quimby 3,.

3-pointers: RT 6 (L. Kuntz 3), HR 4 (Shypkoski 2). Free throws: RT 10-17, HR 15-19. Total fouls: RT 19, HR 21. Technical fouls: Richardton-Taylor. Records: RT 10-11, HR 7-13.

Richardton-Taylor senior forward Collin Kuntz rises up towards the rim in a Region 7 tournament game against Heart River on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at South Heart High School. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)
Richardton-Taylor senior forward Collin Kuntz rises up towards the rim in a Region 7 tournament game against Heart River on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at South Heart High School. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)

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