Belfield races to road win over Raiders, 54-42

Jan. 5—RICHARDTON — The Belfield Bantams just keep on scratching their way to victory in 2023-24, and the first Division B/Region 3-District 5 game of the New Year for both sides saw the visitors travel to Richardton-Taylor and come away with a gritty, 54-42 win that was closer than the scoreboard might indicate. The first-half was air-tight, but a huge third quarter helped propel Belfield to a 7-2 record and elevate the visitors to a three-game winning streak and second-place in the district, while dropping the home team to 3-5.

"It's always a game of runs, so we weathered the storm there when we didn't really play like we were supposed to in the first half," BHS head basketball coach Reggie Fields said. "But we came out more like Bantam basketball in the second half. We're a young team and we're a new team, I should say, so we're just working on staying together through adversity and being consistent."

It also served as something of a comeback-win for the Bantams, who ended up in single digits in the first quarter with the Raiders posting a 15-8 lead on the strength of 6 points from junior guard Ashlynn Christensen and 5 more from senior forward Jenna Schutt. The tables were turned in the second quarter as Belfield held the home-team to only 6 points in the period and raced to 14 for a narrow, 22-21 lead after senior guard Sage Froelich notched 6 second-quarter points and senior center Jamie Buckman drained a 3-pointer as the teams left the court for halftime.

The third quarter was crucial for Belfield, which poured in 17 points in the first eight minutes after the break, with freshman sensation Hadley Talkington dropping in a tre on her way to 7 second-half points for a double-digit total of 11 in the game. Meanwhile, Froelich kept up her consistency and ripped off another 8 points in the second half for a team-high 16.

Belfield went on a 7-2 run through the middle of the third-quarter, but then turnovers plagued both teams and all 10 players went for more-than two minutes without scoring as the ball went end-to-end without much action around the net and only 3 combined points were scored — from the free-throw line — for the final 3 minutes heading into the fourth.

With a 39-31 lead, the Bantams ripped off a 5-2 run and followed that up with a 7-2 run to eventually outscore RTHS, 15-11, in the final eight minutes and hold off the challenge for the victory.

But the key stat in the second half — if not the entire game — was free-throw shooting, as the Bantams pecked away at the charity stripe for 13-of-24 in the second half and 20-of-36 for the game to keep the home-team on their heels, while the Raiders were able to convert only 12-of-26, total.

"Offensively, we keep talking about it, and we know we've got to make those shots and the shots just haven't been falling," Richardton-Taylor head coach Jordyn Mason said. "We shot under 50 percent from the free-throw line; and I think we missed 14 free-throws and lost by 12."

Christensen had an excellent second half with 7 of her game-high 17 points, while Schutt came close to double-digits with 9 in the game for Richardton-Taylor. Buckman also came close to double-figures with 9 points, shooting 4-of-6 from the stripe in the second half.

Next-up for Belfield will be a home-game versus surging Grant CountyMott-Regent (8-3 overall) — who have won four of their last six — on Tuesday, Jan. 9, while Richardton-Taylor will be away to non-district Center-Stanton today (Jan. 5) before hosting Warwick and Glen Ullin-Hebron on Jan. 8 and 9, respectively.

"Every game is important for a new program, especially a road-game; it's really tough to win on the road," Fields said. "And the famous quote I always say is, 'Respect every team, but fear nobody,' and that right there shows you why you have to respect every team because Richardton-Taylor came out ready to play and it was back-and-forth the whole game, so hats-off to them for that."

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