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Hazen ends Heart River season

Cougars fall to Hazen 72-57.

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Heart River Head Coach Erik Klein watches on as, despite the Cougars scoring, the end of the season became more apparent. (Matthew Curry/The Dickinson Press)

With March beginning to be in full swing, the fifth-seeded Heart River Cougars hoped to bring the March Madness effect and pull off an upset win over fourth-seeded Hazen. Unfortunately, the Cougars were dealt unlucky odds and saw its season come to a close.

The Cougars (12-10) trailed the Bison (14-8) for the entire length of its matchup on Monday but never gave up the fight. The team looked to be on the verge of taking the lead late in the third and the beginning of the fourth. But a barrage of 3-pointers by the Bison sealed the Cougars' fate with a 72-57 loss.

"It’s tough to end on a loss but coming into the regional tournament someone is going to have to have a win and someone is going to have to have a loss. Unfortunately, we were on the side that we didn’t want to see, but the sun is going to come up the next day," Cougars' Head Coach Erik Klein said.

Klein added, "I’m proud of how we played, proud of how far we have come since last season. This group has been a lot of fun to coach. Just play so well together and it’s a blast to come to practice and see them every day with the positive attitude."

Despite shooting 38.6% from the field, the Cougars were able to have four players hit double digits in the scoring column. Senior forward Tyler Kastrow finished out the night as the team's leading scorer with 15 points on 55% shooting. Senior Tanner Obrigewitch followed with 12 points and both Braden Obrigewitch and Preston Welton both recorded 11.

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As for the Bison, the team shot 46.3 overall from the field. However, a key portion of its points, and its victory, came from the 3-point line with the team hitting nine of its 18 attempts for a solid 50% success rate. Most of its deep jumpers coming in the fourth quarter.

Hazen sophomore Talan Batke led the charge with 23 points followed by junior Mason Wick with 21. Ninth-grader Tyson Wick nearly recorded a double-double, totaling 17 points and seven rebounds.

" The boys came ready to play today," Bison Head Coach John Ward said. "We had some hiccups in the middle there, but we were able to recover and were able to do things and in the end we relied on each other and I think that kind of showed at the end."

Hazen proved to be a challenging opponent for Heart River early on in the contest, allowing for the team to take a 18-10 lead at the end of the first quarter. With the help of its energized student section, Heart River began to find more of its scoring in the second quarter, but still went into the halftime break down double-digits after being outscored 15-13 to trail 33-23 at the half.

Destined to not end its season on a Monday afternoon, the Cougars pushed forward against the Bison by going on a run that would narrow the gap to four. Hazen did eventually find its scoring to widen the deficit, but Heart River still ended the third by outscoring Hazen 20-17.

As the deficit declined, the hope in the Cougars' hearts began to arise. But the ascension quickly made a crash landing in the fourth quarter.

Heart River did its best to clog the paint and challenge the Bison to score from deep with 3-pointers. Hazen responded by bringing early spring showers into the Trinity gymnasium by draining almost all of its 3-point opportunities, hitting six of its seven attempts from deep in the second half.

As a result, the barrage of 3-pointers stunned the Cougars' defense and the team was unable to return. The Bison took its largest lead of the night in the fourth quarter with a 68-49 lead. Heart River attempted to make a late comeback with a minor run, but Heart River's fate was sealed with a 15 point loss.

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Despite the season coming to an end based on the Bison's offense, Klein credited his players for battling back and narrowly taking the lead in the second half.

"There was definitely no lack of try on our part, that’s for sure," he said. "I got to hand it to Hazen. They shot the ball very, very well and we know that they are capable of doing it and it’s tough to deal with when they start shooting the ball that well. Hats off to them, good luck to them for the rest of the tournament."

With the victory, Hazen advances to the semifinals of the regional tournament but with take on top-seeded Beulah. The winner will advance to the championship game on Thursday. Hazen is currently 0-2 against the Miners.

"We’re going to have to focus a little more on defense," Ward said. "The last time we let some things go the way the way they shouldn’t have gone and they have a good offense and we can’t have the mistakes. We can’t have the mental mistakes."

As for Heart River, Klein reflected on his four seniors Jaden Praus, Preston Walter, Tanner Obrigewitch and Tyler Kastrow.

"Great individuals with bright futures," he said. "They’re all successful, had nice careers in high school and they’re going to be even more successful in life. They’re just good individuals, we’re going to miss every single one of them but we’re blessed to have them for the years that we did."

With the team showing signs of progression near the end of the season, Klein is looking forward to seeing how the team will return for the '21-22 season.

"I think we got a bright future, I really do," he said. "We had a nice mix this year of some senior leadership and some younger nice athletes coming up, looking forward to what we have in the future in Heart River basketball."

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Heart River: 10 13 20 14 - 57

Hazen: 18 15 17 22 - 72

Heart River: Jaden Prous 0, Preston Walter 11, Skyler Froehlich DNP, Cade Wyant DNP, Beaudon Krueger DNP, Braden Obrigewitch 11, Tanner Obrigewitch 12, Austin Buckman 4, Peyton Moore DNP, Tyler Kastrow 15, Tarence Dillinger 4, Ty Gregory DNP, Jordan Koppinger DNP, Tate Janda DNP, Braden Kessel DNP.

Hazen: Kaison Kaylor 0, Dawson Brunder 2, Logan Schwab 0, Talan Batke 23, Tyson Wick 17, Mason Wick 21, Tah'tae Sage DNP, Rylan Van Inwagen DNP, Cole Schneider DNP, Benjamin Foster DNP, Garrett Byerley 0, Austin Richter 9, Riley Walters DNP, Thomas Bickerstaff DNP.

Related Topics: DICKINSON
Matthew Curry is a sports reporter and photographer for the West Central Tribune.
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