By Dan Kelly EBS Contributor

Playing before a packed house at Lone Peak High School, the Big Horns battled back in the second half to win a thrilling Class C basketball game against the West Yellowstone Wolverines on Jan. 11.

West Yellowstone jumped ahead to an early 9-3 lead, with junior Nathan Morse carrying the team squarely on his shoulders early, netting three out the first four baskets for the Wolverines. Lone Peak responded quickly with a 9-4 scoring run of their own, capped by 3-pointers from junior guards Cole March and captain Kolya Bough, who scored 20 points for the Big Horns. The teams traded baskets down the stretch and as the first quarter drew to a close, the score stood 15-14, Wolverines.

Austin Samuels drained a three to put the Big Horns up 17-15 early in the second quarter, but West Yellowstone answered back with five straight points. Sophomore Brayden Vaile scored two points on a fiercely contested basket in the low post, giving the Big Horns the lead with 2:40 left in the half, 24-22. Both Vaile and senior Ethan Schumacher played important minutes throughout the game with senior forward Jackson Wade out with an ankle injury. With the half drawing to a close, senior Tim Finney put West Yellowstone ahead, 30-27.

The Wolverines leapt out of the locker room in the second half with a tough put-back basket by senior Danny Sullivan, who had 15 points in the contest. Teammate Max Hauck, who scored 14 points in the game, hit a shot from beyond the arc shortly thereafter to put West Yellowstone up 35-27.

Sophomore guard Frankie Starz got the Big Horns back on track, draining a jumper to start a scorching 13-4 run during which he scored 9 points over the next four minutes, with Samuels and Vaile each scoring baskets of their own. Two free-throw shots by Hauck of the Wolverines made the score 41-40 at the end of the third quarter.

Junior guard Milosz Shipman torched a three for Lone Peak to open the final quarter of play, matched quickly by the Wolverines leading scorer, Morse, who had 18 points, battling in the paint for two. With the score tied at 45, Starz drained a triple for the Big Horns, one of the night’s 10 three-pointers for Lone Peak.

Shipman, Starz and Bough each scored from beyond the arc on a 12-4 run by the Big Horns that put the game out of reach. The crowd at Lone Peak High School went absolutely wild as Bough’s shot gave the Big Horns a 57-49 lead with 2:20 remaining. West Yellowstone battled back in the final minutes, but when the final whistle blew, the score stood 60-56, Big Horns.

Both teams fought hard and left it all on the court in a game that was described by many onlookers as the best in recent history between the two rivals.

Coach Austin Barth was happy to notch a victory, but still sees room for improvement.
“West came in and played a great game with great effort,” he said. “I was disappointed with our effort when it came to rebounding and points in the paint. We were beaten in both categories and I think [they] both reflect us not having our main big man, but we need guys to step up to a challenge and have a presence in the paint.”

The Big Horns travel to Ennis on Jan. 19, followed by back-to-back home games against Shields Valley on Jan. 25, and Gardiner on Jan. 26. Lone Peak hits the road again to play White Sulphur Springs on Jan. 30, followed by a home game against Manhattan Christian on Feb. 2.

The Big Horns and Wolverines will rematch on Thursday, Feb. 8, in West Yellowstone.

Visit bssd72.org/athletics/ for a complete season schedule.