Boys, girls set school records in action-packed season
By Gabrielle Gasser ASSOCIATE EDITOR
BIG SKY – Defeat at the 12C District Basketball Tournament in Butte ended the Big Horns 2021-22 basketball seasons last week. Though the boys and girls varsity teams left the tournament without hardware, both teams celebrated setting a number of school records and tracking improvement throughout the season.
Three months, 15 games and hundreds of hours of practice put in by these young athletes made for a turbulent season with some tough losses and heart-pounding wins. The varsity boys finished their season with a 3-16 overall record and the girls wrapped with a 10-11 overall record.
Both teams’ conference records set them up for play-in games at districts before they could enter the main bracket.
The boys entered tournament play as the No. 10 seed and faced off against No. 7 seed White Sulphur Springs Hornets on Feb. 16. The boys stayed competitive with the Hornets in the first half, trailing by just one point at halftime. As the clock wound down, the Big Horns were forced to foul and the Hornets made nearly all of their free throws, putting victory out of reach for the Big Horns. A 71-60 score concluded the boys’ season.
The Lady Big Horns played three games at districts, one play-in game and two bracket games. They entered the tournament as the No. 7 seed and played the No. 10 seed Lima Lady Bears first on Feb. 16, winning 54-39 to move into regular tournament play. On Feb. 17 the Lady Big Horns faced the Shields Valley Lady Rebels in a low-scoring game where they fell 33-24, dropping them into the single-elimination consolation bracket.
On Feb. 18, the Lady Big Horns faced their rival the West Yellowstone Lady Wolverines, who they split games with during the regular season. The matchup was close from the start and the score was tied at 24 at halftime. The game came down to the last 45 seconds, when the Lady Wolverines triumphed by four points, 53-49. Junior Maddie Cone scored 31 points against West, the second highest of all time in a game for a Lady Big Horn, according to former boys Head Coach Al Malinowski based on past statistics.
The Lady Big Horns improved steadily throughout the season after spending the first three quarters of it focusing on their offense, which relied on quick passes and 3-point shooting. Their hard work paid off, illustrated by the girls setting two school records in their Feb. 8 game against Lima, according to Head Coach Loren Bough. During that game, they scored nine 3-pointers in the first half and 13 total 3-pointers in the entire game.
Late in the season, the team switched its focus, according to Bough, and the girls worked on improving their defense and reducing fouls. The girls ended their regular season play with a four-game winning streak, triumphing over the Class B Townsend Lady Bulldogs, the Lady Bears, the Sheridan Lady Panthers and the Lady Wolverines.
“The LPHS Lady Big Horns accomplished a number of pre-season goals—averaging 50 points per game, a new motion offense, a proven ability to shoot 3-pointers and fewer than 12 turnovers per game and a new look on press and press break,” Bough wrote in an email to EBS.
The boys had a tough losing season and several tight games in a strong district. Despite the challenges, Head Coach John Hannahs said they did a lot of good things during the season. With each game, the Big Horns improved and near the end of the season the boys played some close games that came down to free throws in the final seconds including a Jan. 28 matchup against the Gardiner Bruins that went into overtime.
The Big Horns worked on putting forth a more consistent offensive effort in games and several lead scorers stood out over the season. In their Jan. 18 game against the Ennis Mustangs, junior Gus Hammond scored 34 points, becoming just the fourth player in Big Horn history to score over 30 points in a game.
Junior Max Romney is currently ranked fourth for most free throws made in a season and was just 13 points shy of 300 points for the season. Hammond and Romney became the eighth and ninth Big Horns respectively to score over 200 points in a season, the first players to do so since the 2014-15 season.
Junior Ben Saad became the 40th Big Horn to score 100 points in a season and senior John Chadwell was just eight points shy of 100 for the season.
“…I had the time of my life coaching these young men, and I think that they had fun as well even if the win column was sparse,” wrote Hannahs in an email to EBS. “Everybody improved, and these guys left it all out on the floor every single game. To show that kind of heart was really inspirational. I think the next step is to find an identity that we can hang onto and incorporate that into the off season, and next year. This team has a bright future.”
Both Big Horns teams showed improvement and grit over the 2021-22 season. The boys are graduating three seniors and the girls are graduating just one senior, setting both teams up for strong rosters of experienced players next year.