Win over Park vaults Golden Eagles into super-divisional
Last year at this time, the season for the Fergus boys’ basketball team had already ended. This year the team enters the Eastern A Divisional Tournament at the Metra in Billings as the third seed out of the Central conference.
“The win against Park was huge, not only because we haven’t won there in a very long time, but it also kept us out of a play-in game,” said Fergus Coach Scott Sparks. “Knowing we are in the tournament is huge for this team.”
The Golden Eagles will play their first ever tournament game in the super-divisional today (Wednesday) against Hardin. Last year, Fergus had to play in Browning for the right to play in the initial year of the super-divisional tournament. When they lost the play-in game to the Indians, the Eagles could only watch the tournament from the bleachers as fans.
Hardin is the second seed out of the Eastern conference. The two teams played each other the very first game of the 2016-2017 season in Havre during a preseason tournament. The Bulldogs came away with an overtime win against the Eagles.
“We’ve shown we can play with the best teams in the super-division,” said Sparks. “Now it is just a matter of us playing a complete 32 minutes.
“Our focus this week is all Hardin. They may have the best player in the division in Darnell LeftHand and the most physical post player in David Evans. Throw in some talented guards, and we know we will have to be at our best on Wednesday. We will need to match physically and eliminate mental mistakes and unforced errors that lead to wasted possessions and transition points.
“There are a few things we will need to adjust offensively, but really it’s going to be a matter of us being efficient, disciplined and keeping mistakes to a minimum.”
Coach Sparks counts on seniors Cole Ayers, Eric Knox and Kale Kynett to provide the leadership for the team. Junior Andrew Lalum is a two-year starter for the Eagles, while juniors Noah Agostinelli, Cody Henderson and Landon Henderson provide quality minutes off the bench. Tanner Trafton and Jaden Graham, both sophomores, have been starters for Sparks for most of the season. Other sophomores who contribute off the bench are Jake Clinton and Wes Jameson.
“I was visiting with a couple of coaches on Sunday,” added Sparks, “and we all feel that the teams in this division are more evenly matched than most might expect. On any given night any team can beat another. Ultimately, match-ups are key as some teams match up better with one team than another. It should be a great atmosphere and an exciting weekend.
“Our goal was to be playing our best basketball this time of the year, and I feel like last week we played some of the best basketball we’ve played all year.”
Eagles earn 5-point win over Park
Saturday night in Livingston, Fergus earned a 5-point win over the Rangers of Park by a score of 49-44.
“I thought we did a great job of executing and using our post advantage against Park,” Sparks said. “We took what was given to us and didn’t force many shots. I thought we did a great job of executing defensively as well. Outside of (Rydell) Floyd getting hot in the fourth quarter, we contained their best players for 28 minutes of the game. We could have finished better, but ultimately this is a game we might have lost earlier in the year, and we didn’t. I think that’s a great sign of how we’ve matured throughout the year.”
Trafton led Fergus offensively with 19 points as the young Eagles jumped to a 12-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. Fergus led, 26-18, at halftime and 34-27 at the end of the third quarter.
Others scoring for the Eagles were Clinton 5, Knox 3, Lalum 7, Jameson 4, Graham 7 and Ayers 4. Floyd led the Rangers with 20 points. Jakim Ricketts added 11 more.
Lose to Billings Central in overtime
Last Tuesday, the Fergus boys’ team hosted Billings Central at home. The game was a make-up one that had been postponed since before the Christmas break.
Trafton scored 13 points against the Rams, while Graham had 16 points.
“To take Central to overtime without Andrew was big,” said Sparks.
Fergus led the Rams 13-11 at the end of the first quarter and 22-19 at halftime. At the end of the third period, Billings Central had come from behind to take a 40-37 lead into the fourth quarter. The two teams were tied, 51-51, at the end of regulation play. The Rams outscored the Eagles, 11 to 3 in overtime, to take the 59-51 win.
Billings Central ended the regular season with 12 wins and 6 losses. In conference play, the Rams tied with Laurel and Hardin for first place with 7-3 conference marks. Billings Central enters the super-divisional as the third seed from the East conference.