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Bearcats devour Cougars

Glen Ullin-Hebron defeats Heart River 54-33.

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Taylor Christensen scored 15 points in the Bearcats' 21-point victory over Heart River on Tuesday. (File Image/The Dickinson Press)

Glen Ullin-Hebron was projected to finish seventh in Class B Region 7 at the end of the season. Nonetheless, the team has shown itself to be a contender within the region and its road game on Tuesday against Heart River was a perfect example.

After earning a 57-23 victory over New Salem-Almont on Dec. 22, the Bearcats (5-1) came into South Heart with the motivation to prove its record was not a fluke and it was still one of the stronger teams in the region.

On the other side, the Cougars (3-3) came into its home building confident and rested after earning a 60-28 victory over Richardton-Taylor in its last matchup on Dec. 29.

By the end of the contest, the Bearcats left little doubt they are currently a serious contender in Class B Region 7 with a 54-33 victory over the Cougars.

"We've had a couple good games strung together ... the girls have really stepped up to the challenge and really done a good job of showing up," Head Coach Brayton Fox said. "It's a good night when we can get everything going. The press was working well tonight, shots were falling."

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The sophomore duo of guard Taylor Christensen and forward Mikayla Schneider played critical roles for the Bearcats offense with both scoring 15 points. Sophomore Kaley Schatz followed suit with 14 points of her own.

For Heart River, junior forward Lelani Privratsky led the team with nine points, followed by senior guard Caylee Wilke with eight points.

Along with being happy with the win, Fox was humbled with the victory over a decent Cougars basketball team, led by Head Coach Ronnie Stewart.

"They got some good girls in South Heart," he said. "Ronnie's got some really talented girls up there ... we just had to step up and put in some pressure."

As for Stewart, the coach was not overly pleased with the outcome after his team went into the winter break with a 32-point win.

"Tonight was one of the more disappointing nights, I suppose, in the three years that I've been a part of this program," Stewart said. "It was just an accumulation of just all the wrong things that had happened and I put a lot of blame on myself ... there just wasn't a lot going our way."

Glen Ullin-Hebron wasted very little time in gaining control over Heart River by approximately hitting eight of its first 10 shots in the game and hitting from all areas of the court, including scoring two 3-pointers. As a result of the heavy scoring, pressure was instantly put on the Cougars. By the end of the first quarter, the Bearcats were in possession of a 20-13 lead.

The Cougars attempted to narrow the gap in the second quarter by finding itself at the free throw line 11 times in the quarter but only obtained four points. With the Bearcats continuing to find ways of scoring from both inside and from the 3-point line, the team held a 35-21 lead at half.

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"We're just not accustomed of playing from behind," Stewart said. "A lot of our girls were put in some new situations early in the season and it's something that we're all going to have to work on and get better at."

Despite having a 14-point deficit, Heart River was the team that came out hot at the start of the third quarter, scoring six consecutive points to narrow the deficit down to eight. For a time it seemed as if the Cougars were going to make a comeback, but it was then Glen Ullin-Hebron opted to rev up its engines and answered back by eventually outscoring the Cougars 10-8 in the quarter.

"The girls were able to find the easy (scoring opportunities) and made the shots look easy and we didn't have to take too many difficult shots tonight," Fox said.

With the team holding a 45-29 lead going into the final quarter of play, Glen Ullin-Hebron refused to let up against its foes and ended the quarter outscoring Heart River 9-4 to take the large 54-33 win.

While there was a lot to be proud of in the game for Fox, his proudest moment was seeing all of his girls having fun on the court. Especially when his core players were forced to sit due to foul trouble, allowing for some of the bench players to get some playing time.

"The coolest thing that I saw tonight was authentic, excitement and celebration tonight," he said. "The girls were involved in the game on the bench and tried to get the girls on the court fired up and excited and it was just one of those cool moments where I just got to see how excited this team can be for each other."

While he was happy about the win, his team holding a 5-1 record and being labeled one of the stronger teams in the region, Fox acknowledged with teams such as back-to-back region champs Hettinger-Scranton and highly respected Bowman County on the horizon, there is still more basketball to be played.

"It's kind of one of those things where we can be happy in the moment and enjoy it here, but just not be satisfied," Fox said.

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As for Heart River, while the loss was tough, Stewart said he is looking forward to returning to the court with his Cougars' roster and continuing to improve.

"I'm very excited about getting all of these girls back in the gym," he said. "I don't know if it was necessarily all of the things that Glen Ullin-Hebron did, I will still give them credit. They shot the ball very, very well, but I think it's just us trying to find the right confidence within ourselves to learn and grow in order to be successful.

Heart River will return to action on Thursday on the road against Lemmon, Glen-Ullin-Hebron will return on Jan. 14 on the road against Mott-Regent.

Glen Ullin-Hebron: 20 15 10 9

Heart River: 13 8 8 4

Glen Ullin-Hebron: Alyssa Duppong 4, Chezney Erickson 4, Sophia Hauser 2, Kaley Schatz 14, Taylor Christensen 15, Mikayla Schneider 15.

Heart River: Sage Froehlich 5, Jordan Buckman 3, Caylee Wilke 8, Abby Talkington 1, Lelani Privratsky 9, Jersey Filkowski 6.

Matthew Curry is a sports reporter and photographer for the West Central Tribune.
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