Locomotives advance to State

By 
Jackson Mcmurrey Outlook Staff Writer
Thursday, March 5, 2020
Loco junior Colter Bales goes up for two in traffic at during Laurel’s divisional semi–final matchup against Billings Central. Outlook photo by Chris McConnell

Loco junior Colter Bales goes up for two in traffic at during Laurel’s divisional semi–final matchup against Billings Central. Outlook photo by Chris McConnell

The Laurel High Pep Band plays at First Interstate Arena between the Loco boy’s and girl’s basketball games last Friday. Outlook photo by Chris McConnell

The Laurel High Pep Band plays at First Interstate Arena between the Loco boy’s and girl’s basketball games last Friday. Outlook photo by Chris McConnell

Nick Pasquarello waits for a pass during the Loco game against Sidney on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at the First Interstate Auto Arena. Outlook photo by Jackson McMurrey

Nick Pasquarello waits for a pass during the Loco game against Sidney on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at the First Interstate Auto Arena. Outlook photo by Jackson McMurrey

Tournament season took over the days and evenings last week with advancing to State the top priority for the Locomotive basketball teams. Pushing their way along in matchups between Wednesday, Feb. 26 and Saturday, Feb. 29, the Locos made the First Interstate Arena of Billings MetraPark a second home until the long-awaited conclusion. It took five games in four days, but the fourth-seeded Laurel boys varsity team locked in a spot in the Class A State Championship after taking fourth place in Eastern A Divisionals.

Laurel 60, Sidney 41

Laurel beat Sidney in the first game of round one on Wednesday, kicking off the tournament with a win sending the Locomotive boys in the right direction on the bracket. The score came out to 60-41, Laurel’s fresh-feeling offense towered over the Eagle’s defense. Colter Bales, of Laurel, held the lead on his team, 16 points by the end of the game, and is a player who’s height of 6’6 makes it easy for him to post-up on the inside whenever he can.

Laurel 52, Miles City 37

Laurel boys faced Miles City in their next game on Thursday. Laurel’s Wylee Schnetter set the pace by sinking a three-pointer barely two minutes into it, a 3-0 lead for Laurel that was enough initiative to launch Laurel to a 52-37 win by the final buzzer. Playing with diligence and concentration this game, the Locos were careful to not shoot too soon. They did face a difficult defense though but the challenge made the Laurel boys want to win more. With three minutes left until halftime, Laurel had five fouls compared to the Cowboy’s nine fouls. Fluid movement fueled by determined endurance led the Locomotives to overcome the physical challenge.

Laurel 45, Billings Central 65

Game 10, the third game for the boys in three days, was played against rival Billings Central. This was Laurel’s third game against the Rams in less than a month, and was considered a rematch after the Locomotives claimed victory in overtime the last time Central came to Laurel on Feb. 20. This time around, Laurel lost their first game of the tournament 65-45. The Locos were down 35-19 with 45 seconds left until halftime. Starting on the second half quick on their feet and communicative, Laurel still struggled to make their shots. The Locos defense began to aggressively focus on wherever the ball went, but with a lot of double-teaming the ball taking place, Laurel left opposition open inside a few too many times letting the lead slip away even more as the end of the game came nearer. The fourth quarter started with the score 47-29. At this point in the tournament, it became clear that it was a real test of stamina and signs of a long week showed more and more. With seven minutes to catch up, Bales was fouled going in for a lay-up and made his double-bonus points putting Laurel behind 50-31, and their speed increased as their defense hardened. Putting out as much gas as they had left, the Locos wouldn’t accept defeat without putting up a fair fight, and that’s what they did. Coach Paul Barta, in his black suit and purple tie, sat stoically in his spot on the bench for most of the game, leaning forward in his seat with intense focus how someone might do so when watching a suspenseful action-thriller movie. He called shots every chance he saw fit, and communicated with the boys through hand motions, one-on-one ingame briefs, and strategic timeouts as a team. His calm demeanor and the way he sits with such tuned-in focus throughout any game makes his style of coaching seem almost telepathic, which makes sense after going on 30 years of coaching, most of which were spent in Columbus.

Laurel 48, Livingston 58

After their loss to the Rams, Laurel had to defeat Havre on Saturday morning at Rocky Mountain College (which they won 53-41) to then fight for third place in game 13, a consolation game against Park County. The game was back at the Met 53-41)ra on Saturday afternoon, and despite the toll that the four-day endeavor was taking on the boys, Laurel still played with as much intensity as they did when they started. It was a tenacious battle for the Locos, but they lost by 10 points to the Rangers, the final score coming to 58-48. It was an 8-7 Locomotive lead ending the first quarter, and they even kept the lead by a small stretch going into half. Jace McNeil, of Laurel, got his third foul with four-and-a-half minutes left in the second quarter and Laurel continued to search for smarter ways to play. With three-and-a-half minutes left, Schnetter put a three-pointer in and Nick Pasquarello put in two points shortly after, helping Laurel find their needed comfort on the court. Renner bucketed a point after getting fouled with 30 seconds left in the first half of the game, and by halftime, Laurel led 18-15. The Locos created a safety net with a third quarter lead of 25-17, but it unexpectedly evaporated as Livingston stole the lead just before the end of the quarter. With six minutes left in the match, the score ends up 41-37, Laurel trailing behind struggling to make up for their loss going into the fourth quarter. The only Locomotive senior on the boys team, Danner Purkett, sank a three with two-and-a-half minutes left to try to keep their heads above the water. Purkett stole the ball with just over a minute left and assists a layup, but fouls right after letting Park put in more free-throws and the lead only inched away further from Laurel, who ended up giving the third-place slot to Park County.

This loss ended the Laurel varsity boys’ run in the Divisional tournament, and put a lock on fourth place. It may have been bittersweet that the Locomotives couldn’t have won a higher ranking, but the push going into State will open up a new window of opportunity for the boys. Laurel heads to the state tournament with Hardin, Central, and Livingston, the second consecutive season that all four Southeast A schools sweep their way to State. Laurel starts its run against Browning at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 12 back at the First Interstate Arena.

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Upcoming Events

Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Wednesdays, 7 p.m., 201 1/2 E. Main St., Laurel
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