By Barbara Rowley

BIG SKY – The Ophir Middle School girls’ basketball team brought home the first Rural School Championship in school history on Feb. 27 with a hard-fought win over rival Manhattan Christian.

The only team that had beaten the Miners this season, Manhattan Christian was victorious in both of their previous contests. But in the championship tournament at Big Sky’s Bough-Dolan gym, the Miners made the third time the charm with a 25-18 victory.

Ophir started Katie Pearl Hoffman, Kuka Holder, Carter Johnsen, Jada Marker and Katie Middleton on the floor in the championship game, five eighth graders that have played together for the last four years.

Once the starting five had a few points on the board, two seventh grade replacements – Emma Thompkins and Raley Warga – added solid minutes for the Miners. Teammate Solae Swenson, who was out for the season with a broken wrist, offered encouragement from the bench.

Head Coach Cyle Kokot had nothing but praise for his team, which finished the season with a 14-2 record.

“Believing in yourself and your teammates, and having confidence is a huge part of sports in general,” Kokot said. “The girls bought in and began to believe, and they went out and started winning, and they just kept going. And then we won the whole thing! I could not be more proud of them.”