By Brandon Walker
BIG SKY – On Dec. 7, one year removed from the Lone Peak High School varsity girls’ basketball team’s first regular season game of the 2019-2020 season, the Lady Big Horns returned to the court, but this time for their first practice of the year. Games will not begin until January this season as a safety precaution due to COVID-19.
One advantage: The Lady Big Horns didn’t lose a single athlete from last year’s team due to graduation.
This year’s team will look to build on the 2019-2020 Lady Big Horns regular season with a near .500 record of 8-10. LPHS concluded last season by losing in consecutive contests to Shields Valley and Gardiner in the district tournament.
One noticeable change this season will be the person calling the shots from the sidelines. Coach Loren Bough will be absent this season as he recovers from injuries he sustained in a mountain bike accident last summer. In his stead, Taylor Cummings, who was a volunteer assistant coach for Lone Peak last season, will lead the team.
“Honestly, I think that was one of the reasons why I stepped in, was working with them last year and seeing how hungry they were to improve and be better and … put in the work,” Cummings said. “They’re very knowledgeable. They’re smart girls.”
This season will be Cummings’s first experience as a head coach. The Belt, Montana, native previously coached at the collegiate level for four years, first as graduate assistant coach in South Dakota for Black Hills State University from 2015-2017, then as assistant coach from 2017-2019 in Wyoming at Sheridan College.
Cummings is familiar with the atmosphere of Class-C school athletics from her high school playing days at Belt. She went on to play point guard and captain her collegiate team at Montana State University Northern.
The team has a large learning curve ahead as they adjust to her style of play, but Cummings is very excited by what she’s witnessed at the first week of practices.
“Overall, they have such good attitudes and … I can tell they’re ready, so we’ve had really good practices so far,” she said.
Thirteen athletes are participating between the varsity and junior varsity teams this season. Cummings said the teams have not been split yet, and likely won’t be until the first game draws closer, but she anticipates rostering roughly six full-time varsity players and having seven junior varsity athletes with some crossover between the teams.
From her early observations, Cummings believes the team’s “willingness to win” will be one of their keys to success this season.
“They’re a solid group and they’re all kind of driving in the same direction and I think that’s going to be their greatest strength,” she said, adding that communication and allowing themselves to make mistakes and play loose are aspects the team can improve on currently.
Having experienced a taste of the LPHS atmosphere last season and looking ahead to their 15-game schedule, Cummings is already anticipating matchups with rival West Yellowstone on Jan. 15 and Feb. 11 and a shot at powerhouse Manhattan Christian on Jan. 19 and Jan. 28.
“I was [also] hoping we’re able to stay safe and get a full season because I really think they have an opportunity to make a splash in this district and even the division,” Cummings said.
Lone Peak will start the season on the road at Harrison-Willow Creek on Jan. 5.