LAUREL — On a night when each possession was magnified, Laurel made just enough plays to remain unbeaten.
The No. 1-ranked Locomotives outlasted Eastern A rival Glendive 24-23 on Saturday in a methodical, slow-paced affair. The victory boosted Laurel’s record to 14-0 overall and 7-0 in the league.
In the fourth quarter with the game on the line, Evan Jones made both ends of a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity to give the Locomotives a three-point lead with 44 seconds left.
Laurel was able to hang on at the end when Colter Bachmeier’s desperation half-court attempt fell harmlessly to the floor.
“It wasn’t a bad game, it was a strange game,” explained Laurel coach Pat Hansen. “Both teams had good ball control and both teams made sure turnovers weren’t going to be an issue. Both teams defended very well, and weren’t going to give an inch.”
The slow tempo produced several long possessions in the half court. The teams went through nearly a four-minute stretch in the first quarter without scoring.
Unranked Glendive (11-3, 4-1 Eastern A) came out of the locker room at halftime trailing by six points, and ended up tying the game on consecutive baskets by Bachmeier (twice) and 6-foot-10 big man Bryden Beohning.
Bryce Herman made two key plays in the second half for Laurel, knocking down a 3 from the corner with 3:06 to play in the third and converting a three-point play at 6:22 of the fourth.
“We took care of the ball extremely well,” said Laurel’s Shawn Nardella. “We forced some shots at the end, but we got the job done.”
Still, Glendive had a chance to knot the game late.
On their second-to-last possession, the Red Devils tried in vain to set up a tying 3-pointer, instead settling for Tanner Schwartz’s drive to the hoop that pulled them within one point with six seconds on the lock.
And after Laurel’s Brett Thompson missed the front-end of a 1-and-1, Bachmeier got the rebound with four seconds left, raced to half court and heaved up a prayer. It fell short.
“We ended up taking it to the rack when we probably should have kicked out and put one up,” said Glendive coach Wade Murphy. “But it was one of those things where both teams defended well and both teams played physical.
“In a low-possession game like this you have to take care of your opportunities. And we kind of blew some opportunities.”
The victory extended Laurel’s home winning streak against Eastern A opponents to 23. The Locomotives’ last home loss to a league foe came against Billings Central during the 2008-09 season.