By Dan Kelly EBS Contributor
BIG SKY – The Lone Peak Big Horns basketball season came to an end in the District 11C tournament in Churchill, Montana, on Feb. 17, just as the previous issue of EBS was going to press.
Defeated in the Thursday night game by White Sulphur Springs, 70-50, the boys battled hard but came up short. They were subsequently beaten in the consolation bracket by West Yellowstone, 77-60, on Saturday. Nonetheless it was a good season for the Big Horns, who started out at a torrid pace, reaching an 8-4 record early in the season, before hitting a slump that saw them finish at 8-9 for the regular season.
In their first year under Coach Austin Barth, who was assisted by John Hannahs, the Big Horns exhibited flashes of greatness, but struggled against bigger, more physical teams on nights when their outside shots were not falling and rebounds were hard to come by.
Overall the team displayed vast potential and has a lot to look forward to next season as they welcome back the majority of their team. They are losing three seniors who were key contributors, but are retaining two top scorers and a group of talented sophomores slated to make a bigger impact as their playing time increases and their team chemistry develops.
Reflecting on the season, senior captain Jackson Wade offered these words: “This year we were able to accomplish a lot … from sophomore year when we had seven players to now when we have a flourishing program. This year especially I felt that we all really came together from the start of the year and played as a family on and off the court. That is something I am going to miss immensely. I could not be more proud of my team and this past season.”
When asked about his thoughts on the season, fellow senior and captain Liam Germain said, “The team improved tremendously and I believe the Big Horns are destined for big things next year. I had a ton of fun this season and I am sad I will not be a part of Big Horn basketball next year.”
One highlight that stands out from the season was the Big Horns’ victory over rival Ennis, a first for the program against a team that has been a perennial powerhouse in the region. This game perhaps best exemplified the trajectory of the Lone Peak basketball program as it now stands, accomplishing firsts for the program each season as the school and the team grow at a rapid pace.
Barth recalled the team’s exuberance after the big win against Ennis. “One of the most rewarding experiences this year was walking into the locker room [after we beat Ennis],” Barth said. “The boys were so fired up; it was a very proud moment for us coaches.”
Without a doubt the Big Horns will continue to improve with junior captain Kolya Bough returning next season alongside an exciting and dynamic group of sophomores who will return as upperclassmen.
“Next year we are returning a lot of key players,” Barth said. “Bough, March, Shipman, Starz, Vaile and Samuels all played a lot of minutes for us this year. We have to get stronger and faster this offseason … find that next gear from being good to being great.”