By Brandon Walker
GARDINER, Mont. – Gardiner’s Evan Guengerich scored a game-high 28 points to help lead the Bruins past the Lone Peak Big Horns 62-47 on Feb. 16 in a 12C District Tournament play-in game.
As a precaution due to COVID-19, athletic directors within the district restructured the tournament format this season. Typically, a double elimination style tournament, this year athletic directors amended tournament play to a single-elimination format, so the loss ended Lone Peak’s season.
Additionally, rather than playing at a host site this season, teams with the lower seed in each tournament contest hosted the game, so the Big Horns traveled to square off against the lower seeded Bruins.
Big Horn seniors Michael Romney, Jackson Lang and Nolan Schumacher led the team offensively in their final appearances with Lone Peak. The trio combined for 39 of the team’s 47 total points with Romney scoring a team-high 18, Lang adding 12 and Schumacher contributing nine. After Guengerich, Gardiner received another 12 points from John McDonald and eight points from Taylor Rose.
The first half was tightly contested with neither team gaining much separation. Guengerich scored eight first-quarter points to propel his team to an early 10-7 lead.
The Big Horns and Bruins battled to a stalemate in the second, scoring 11 points apiece. Sophomore Gus Hammond poured in all six of his points in the quarter to help keep LPHS within striking distance as the teams entered the locker room with Lone Peak trailing 21-18.
Coming out of the half, Gardiner hit the ground running. Led by a nine-point quarter from Guengerich, the Bruins outscored the Big Horns 19-8 in the third quarter and grabbed a 40-26 lead as the teams entered the final eight minutes of play.
The fourth quarter was high scoring for both teams. Ultimately, Gardiner was able to outlast Lone Peak, winning the quarter by a point, 22-21, and clinching their victory.
“It was kind of a back and forth of who’s going to catch fire first,” said Lone Peak Head Coach John Hannahs. “They caught fire first and we had trouble recovering.”
Both teams shot better than 60 percent from the free-throw line. LPHS edged Gardiner at the stripe, shooting 7-of-11, while the Bruins were 11-of-18 as a team.
Overall, the Big Horns finished their season with a 4-10 record. Lone Peak’s junior varsity boys’ team, coached by Dave Magistrelli, finished their year with a 6-3 record, according to Hannahs.
In a winter athletics season shortened by COVID-19, the four victories of the 2020-2021 basketball season marked an improvement over last season’s 3-15 final record for LPHS. Two of the team’s victories came at the Bough-Dolan Athletic Center, while the other two wins were picked up on the road.
“Their coachability and their general attitude that they bring to practice every day, it makes you want to come back next year,” Hannahs said of his team.
The Big Horns will graduate four seniors from this year’s squad in Lang, Romney, Schumacher and Mikey Botha. “All four of them have just made such significant growth over the four years that I’ve been able to coach them,” Hannahs said.
To say the senior group left its mark on the program this season would be an understatement. Schumacher was a constant defensive presence at the post and hauled in more than his share of rebounds this season, while Botha scored a game-winning basket against the team’s rival West Yellowstone Wolverines that Hannahs pointed to as the highlight of the season.
Finally, both Lang and Romney will depart as single-game recordholders for the Big Horns. Lang’s seven 3-pointers against Twin Bridges on Jan. 16 are the most by any Big Horn in a single game. Romney has two records to his name: he recorded a Lone Peak single-game high in assists with 11 against White Sulphur Springs and also made the most free-throws in one game with 17 against Sheridan.
The 2020-2021 season was not without its share of challenges, but Hannahs appreciated the opportunity to lead his team on the court this year.
“We got to play basketball and a whole lot of teams around the country didn’t get that luxury,” he said. “We’re thankful for that.”