Hardin, coronavirus ends Park’s season

Ryan Peerboom — Enterprise Staff Writer
Monday, March 16, 2020
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Enteprise photos by Ryan Peerboom

Park’s Brendon Johnson (24) leads a fastbreak in front of Trisan Stenseth, left, Nick Battrick, right center, and Rylee Watt (2) against Hardin in the state semifinals on Friday at MetraPark in Billings.

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Sage McMinn (10) gathers the ball as he fights through contact while Park coach Layne Glaus, left, looks on.

The Park Rangers lost to the Hardin Bulldogs, 73-41, on Friday night in the semifinal round of the MHSA Class A State Tournament at MetraPark in Billings. They didn’t know it at the time, but the game proved to be their last of the season as the MHSA canceled the tournament on Friday night due to the coronavirus.

Although they understand why the decision was made, Park head coach Layne Glaus said his team was prepared to continue their season on Saturday. 

“Our team understands the circumstances and agree that the health and safety of those vulnerable to the virus comes first,” Glaus said. “That being said, it wasn’t easy hearing the news. Our boys had a resilient mindset after the loss and were prepared to bring back the third place trophy to Livingston.”

Glaus said the cancellation had a greater impact on the senior players. 

“The sudden news was especially tough for the seniors,” he said. “We expected two more games and were not prepared for it to be over, our guys loved being around each other. It’s tough to come to grips that the brotherhood that is developed through the season is coming to an end.”

Before the news broke, the Rangers did their best to keep up with the undefeated Bulldogs. Like their matchup with Hardin in the Divisional semis, the Rangers struggled early on offense. Park fell behind early 10-2 with their only make coming on a tip-in from Tristan Stenseth over 3 minutes into the game. 

The Rangers were able to find a better rhythm late in the quarter, sparked by a 3-point play on a coast-to-coast score from Brendon Johnson. The Rangers trailed 14-7 at the end of the first. 

Park came out strong in the second. They started the quarter on a 7-2 run to pull within two. Sage McMinn scored five straight points during the run. 

The Bulldogs had an answer – a big one. They finished the half on a 16-2 run where every shot they put up seemed to find the bottom of the net. Park’s defense was there to contest shots, Hardin just found a way to get them to fall and take a 32-16 lead into the second half. 

Glaus said the Rangers played tough, but turnovers played a role in the Bulldogs’ run.

“I thought we had a gutty performance, but scoring with consistency and taking care of the ball can take pressure off your defense,” he said. “In the first half we had 15 turnovers and didn’t hit a high percentage of our shots.”

Hardin’s momentum from their end-of-half run carried over into the second half. The Bulldogs continued to make tough shots and scored 26 points in the third quarter alone. The Rangers outscored the Bulldogs 11-9 down the stretch of the quarter, but Hardin built a dominant, 59-31, lead. 

The Bulldogs capped off their 73-41 win and outscored Park 15-10 in the final quarter. With the cancellation of Saturday’s games, Hardin was named co-champion along with Butte Central who won the other semifinal game with a win over Browning.

Johnson led the Rangers with 14 points. Tristan Stenseth scored 10 points, eight of which came from the free-throw line. McMinn added nine points to go along with eight rebounds. 

There is no information on how the MHSA will handle the final placement for teams in the consolation bracket. 

Although they fell short of their goal to win a title, the Rangers have many accomplishments to look back on from this season. Glaus spoke about what those accomplishments meant to the program.

“I am humbled by what this group accomplished,” he said. “It is a result of hard work and sacrifice from everyone – managers, players, administration, assistant coaches – involved with the program. To have a successful team, there has to be an attitude of selflessness throughout the program and that’s just what this group had. I think, the fact that we made it that far in the postseason is a result of the players putting their focus on our character values: humility, brotherhood, grit, laser focus, and leadership.”

Park graduates seven seniors from this year’s squad, many of whom played a significant role. Glaus called the team a “special group” and said it will be difficult to replace them moving forward.

“They understood the importance of accountability which made them easy to coach and allowed them to grow throughout the season,” he said. “Simply put, they were coachable and had a passion to be great. Once they had the ‘what can I do to make the situation better’ attitude, our team got better and better.”