Locos take Divisional title with ease

By: 
GARRETT HARR
Outlook staff writer
Photos by Garrett Harr.  The Locomotives were the champs at Divisionals last week after going undefeated and beating Belgrade in the final game.

After a close 45-39 win against Miles City on the first day of the Eastern-A Divisional Tournament the Locomotives were off and running.
The first game of the tournament raised more questions than answers.
Miles City held the ball for long durations of time in the fourth quarter, as did Laurel, and it brought up the question of the Montana High School Association’s decision to not have a shot clock in high school basketball games.
This slowed the game down to a halt and ruined what would have otherwise been an exciting finish, which instead was turned into a three-possession fourth quarter of each team team holding the ball for over three minutes.
The game raised a debate among players, fans and coaches. They questioned whether the state should implement a shot clock, though a majority of the country doesn’t, although bigger markets like New York and California, to name a few, do.
This old-fashioned style of basketball will probably eventually be changed in Montana High Schools, but for now will most likely be left alone.
But, it didn’t matter; Laurel’s momentum didn’t stop. With the shot clock the game might have been a blowout.
The Locos made key free throws and scored in the clutch, Christian Jones made big plays; the entire team showed amazing poise and professionalism and never seemed worried about the score even when they were trailing in the beginning.
LHS Head Coach Pat Hansen got animated at the end and pushed his boys, as the game was so close it took incredible discipline for the young men to hang onto the win.
The Browning game was a wash and just gave the Locomotives more confidence going into the championship match.
Laurel played Belgrade in the finals
Layne Willis ended the first quarter of the championship game with a corner three and baseline jumper to give Laurel a three point lead after one.
Belgrade had a good team with Dawson Fowler, who had an amazing first half, but then cooled off; and Brock Salsbury led Belgrade with 17.
Christian Jones dropped 12 in his usual fashion, but it was Layne Willis who couldn’t be stopped. He ended the game tying a tourney high with 30 points.
Willis was spectacular, but so were the rest of his teammates.
Hansen and company played together. Every missed call he screamed, moving passionately up and down the sidelines to defend his players. His coaching strategy looked mechanical in the way players were put in and taken off the court, but his defensive schemes paid off big time.
Belgrade has a great offense and should have scored a lot more and they weren’t having an off night, they just couldn’t score, they were smothered, and Hansen made sure of it.
Dawson Cortese and Shay Osbourne took care of the bigs and Jones, Willis, Casey Cole and Chanc Lawrence and Isaiah Renner were unbelievable on the guards and wings.
If anything, the entire tourney was a showcase for the boys and Hansen and his staff’s system, which along with the players were on full display over the weekend as they dispatched opponent after opponent.
“I am extremely proud of the players,” said Hansen. “They had a great mindset throughout the weekend, competed extremely hard and played for each other and for the most part was disciplined on defense.
“This is a good group of kids who put in a lot of time,” he continued. “I am very happy for them that they get the opportunity to spend more time with each other and have a chance to gain success at the State tournament.”
State, however will be a different animal all together, they may run into Billings Central, who they went 1-1 in the season series and both were close games decided in the last few seconds.
The Rams will probably be the toughest competition, or Hardin, or another tough matchup with Belgrade, but all of those three teams have already been beaten.
No one really stands in the way of the Locomotive’s State title except themselves. It will be a testament to how well and how deep Hansen’s discipline runs inside of his boys.
The LHS Locomotives won’t play for another week and will have the days off to practice and prepare.
The State tournament takes place in Butte, Mar. 9-11.

Laurel def. Miles City 45-39
Miles City 10 12 10 7 — 39 
Laurel 8 8 20 9 — 45 
Miles City: Clay Prell 2, Gabe Gundlach 16, Kaden Stradley 5, Kelly Irion 2, Tyler Burk 14. 
Laurel: Casey Cole 2, Shay Osborne 5, Christian Jones 19, Layne Willis 6, Dawson Cortese 6, Chanc Lawrence 7. 

Laurel def. Browning 73-48.
No stats available.

Laurel def. Belgrade 64-50
Belgrade 12 12 11 15 — 50 
Laurel 15 8 18 23 — 64 
Belgrade: Dawson Fowler 15, Easton Page 4, Trey Layman 12, Brock Salsbury 17, Hayden Van Winkle 2.
Laurel: Casey Cole 2, Shay Osborne 12, Christian Jones 12, Layne Willis 30, Dawson Cortese 5, Chanc Lawrence 3.

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