Senior captain Jessie Bough: “Our biggest focus is to run the fast break, try to get ahead of teams [and] run them off the court.”
By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER
Behind their first ever pep band, a highly esteemed high school coach from Arizona and with twice as many players this season—including confident team leaders—the Big Horns look to make a statement in their final Class C campaign.
“We’re excited, we’re pumped, this is gonna be a good year,” said team captain Jessie Bough, the senior point guard clapping her hands as if to break a huddle. She told EBS the Big Horns are balanced between fast breaks, passing and shooting. She expects that every player will contribute on every front, and this should be a “comeback season” after a disappointing loss in last year’s district tournament.
Next year, Lone Peak High School and Ennis High School girls basketball will ascend to Class B.
Junior post-threat Vera Grabow joined Bough to give EBS an inside look into the team’s strengths and challenges. When asked about their goals for the team, Bough and Grabow responded in unison:
Bough added that another goal is to have fun, “but we have fun when we’re winning.”
Grabow explained that her teammates put in a lot of work in the offseason and preseason. She said they played tournaments over the summer which totaled nearly 40 games. Still, she said, composure might be a challenge early on.
The roster has doubled from eight players to more than 16, providing the depth of a JV team and perhaps a learning curve.
“We have a ton of new girls coming up, but there’s only six of us who have been playing together for a super long time,” Bough said. “Some of our weaknesses are just… we haven’t played much together as an entire group. Coming into games without a ton of composure is what I’m worried about, but we just gotta get out there and start playing.”
Star senior Maddie Cone is expected to return in January from a fractured tibia she sustained during volleyball. Head coach Loren Bough (Jessie’s father) expects Cone to make an impact as soon as she’s ready to play.
Entering his third season as head coach, coach Bough said he doesn’t try to own the process. Especially with the expertise of assistant coach Curtis Ekmark—who lives ‘here and there’ between Montana and Arizona where he won multiple state championships as a high school coach plus national coach of the year accolades—coach Bough said, “I tend to realize I’m just a dad, doing the best I can.”
Still, with seven years of coaching experience in Big Sky and a trip to the Montana state tournament back in high school, coach Bough knows what it would take to reach state—finishing in the top eight out of 100 teams in Class C, by way of a top-two finish in the divisional tournament.
“That’s our goal—it’s a high, hard goal,” he said. “Two of the top five teams in the state are in our district. Twin Bridges and Manhattan Christian. We have to get past one of those teams to make state. It’s a goal, and I think we can get there, it’s what we’ve been working for. But at this point, it’s certainly aspirational.”
Coach Bough recognized the core group of girls who committed to offseason ball, and said this team is built with a strong upperclassmen presence. He expects the girls to play fast and win a lot of games, continuing their upward trajectory over the past few seasons which earned them a winning percentage of .500 last season.
The Big Horns will open their season with an important test.
On Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m., they’ll host Twin Bridges High School.
“Tuesday is important to us,” said coach Bough. “[Twin Bridges] is likely second or third best team in the state at the moment… They’re likely looking past us. We want them to come out of the game on Tuesday knowing they had to battle. We expect them to come in on here and have a dogfight.”
Jessie Bough said the team is working hard, “[to] throw them off guard hopefully and show other teams in the district we’re a threat.”
“We’re ready to come out strong and play with them,” Grabow said.