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Heart River falls to Night Hawks, to play for third place

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Head coach Scott Miller talks with his team during a timeout during the Cougars sweep of the Ranchers on Tuesday night. (Jake Wright / The Dickinson Press)

Heart River came into Thursday's Class B Region 7 semifinal matchup knowing it was in for a tough battle against No. 3 Hettinger-Scranton. The second-seeded Cougars hoped to pull out the victory and play for the conference championship on Saturday, but saw that dream end on its home court with a 3-0 sweep loss to the Night Hawks.

The Cougars (10-1 conference, 16-4 overall) attempted to play its best volleyball against the Night Hawks (7-3 conference, 13-6 overall) particularly in the second set, but were unable to come away with the victory. Heart River previously defeated Hettinger-Scranton 3-1 when the two teams battled in the regular season, but were unable to have the same success on Thursday.

For Scott Miller, the head coach of the Heart River Cougars, and who was recently named the All-Region 7 Coach of the Year, the loss was very difficult.

"We started out a little tight, our ball control wasn't very good and Hettinger played really well," Miller said. "They got on some momentum and we couldn't make plays. But the credit goes to Hettinger, they outplayed us."

Night Hawks' senior middle hitter Samantha Oase was the key contributor against the Cougars, consistently finding ways of penetrating the Heart River defense and making it very difficult for the home team to stop the Night Hawks' offense.

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"Samantha Oase really took it to us," Miller said. "She's a great player and we couldn't find a way to stop her."

The Cougars attempted to use its home court to its advantage, but Hettinger-Scranton was highly driven to play for the Championship on Saturday. The Night Hawks consistently found ways of scoring in the first set and was able to come away with a 25-13 set win.

Following the first set loss, the Cougars saw the tough challenge ahead and embraced it by attempting to play its best volleyball by keeping the score close and were able to find more ways of scoring. However, the Night Hawks were still able to make clutch plays when they needed to and pulled out a 25-17 second set win, seemingly stunning the Cougars.

Heart River attempted to extend the match, but with a 2-0 lead, and the conference championship game being on the tips of its fingers, the Night Hawks put in a solid effort in the third set to close out the match with another 25-13 set win officially pulling off the upset and ending the Cougars' chances of playing for the conference championship and potentially going the state tournament.

Despite the loss, the Cougars' season is not yet finished as it now prepares to play in its final game of the season on Saturday as it hosts the Beulah Miners for the third place title. The last time the two teams met was on Sep. 19 when the Cougars pulled out the close victory 3-2 on its home court.

The Cougars matchup against the Miners is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. MST

As for Hettinger-Scranton, the team now looks forward to playing in the Class B Region 7 championship against the top-seeded defending conference champs, Trinity Titans on Saturday at 1 p.m. MST

In 2019, the second-seeded Titans battled the top-seeded Night Hawks in the Class B Region 7 championship and pulled off the upset victory against the Night Hawks 3-1 on the Titans’ home floor to win its third straight conference title.

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