Mullets for State
By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER
Less than 48 hours before Lone Peak High School basketball tips off in Billings in their state tournament debut, the boys adjusted their hairstyle for speed.
Perhaps to gain an edge against the Broadus High School Hawks of Powder River County School District—the Hawks won the Montana Southern Division—most of the Big Horns took turns cutting their hair after Tuesday’s practice in Big Sky. It started as an agreement between players during the district tournament, when the Class C state tournament seemed like a half-court shot. But the shot went in, so to speak, and the mullets followed.
EBS spoke with the Big Horn seniors and starting five before they lined up in the hallway for haircuts.
“Well, let me tell you, it’s pretty cool,” said senior captain Gus Hammond on making state. “It’s pretty sweet, [we’ve] never even made it past districts before. It’s cool to make history at Lone Peak with this group of guys and this coaching staff.”
Senior captain Max Romney has gone to watch the past couple state championships, and said he always wanted to be out there playing on the grand stage of Class C basketball.
“There’s a ton of energy, always,” Romney said. “People from every district, almost every team are there. People you wouldn’t imagine going, will go. You’ll see guys from your district who didn’t make it. It’s a big event.”
Romney said if the Big Horns continue their recent trend of strong, team basketball, “the rest will take care of itself.” Hammond said the Big Horns will need to play their game: cool, calm and collected, one possession at a time.
The Hawks finished with an overall record of 18-4 while going undefeated in their region. They outscored opponents 1,352 to 910, according to standings on MaxPreps.com. The Big Horns, 17-9 overall, played in the tough District 12C and outscored opponents 1,489 to 1,376.
“They won their division, and I think they’re in the state tournament for I think the second year in a row,” Romney said. “They’re a really good team. It’s gonna be fun, just excited to play them.”
Hammond added, “they’ve got some good players, we’ve been doing some scouting and figuring out what we do defensively to stop their main guys. But we’re in the state tournament too. It’s all good teams from now on.”
The Class C tournament will be held at the First Interstate Bank Arena in Billings, a 10,000-seat, multi-purpose venue.
Freshman standout Ebe Grabow commented that it’s bigger than what the Big Horns are used to. Junior guard Juliusz Shipman said the space behind the hoop might mess with depth perception, but he added that the Big Horns shot the ball well in Butte at Montana Tech University’s Kelvin Samson Court and the Maroon Athletic Center, both significantly larger than Lone Peak’s Bough-Dolan Gymnasium.
The Big Horns played the maximum number of possible games between the district and divisional tournaments—10 playoff games in 13 days. They’ll open the state tournament after nine full days of rest.
“It’s very nice,” said senior Ben Saad, who the Big Horns count on each game for contributions off the bench. “Gives us a chance to get back on our feet and get ready for what we have ahead.”
“The rest feels good, we needed it,” added sophomore Isaac Bedway, who confirmed he’s back to 100% after a mild ankle sprain in the divisional tournament. “We were all pretty worn out after the challenge game.”
On winning state, the boys said they’ll need to take it one game at a time. But they’re hopeful, and with less hair on the sides of their heads, they’ll look like a team.
Inspiring a community
Athletic Director and assistant coach John Hannahs told EBS that the team motto ‘one possession at a time’ has helped the Big Horns play fast and loose, beating some strong teams to earn one of the two spots from the Montana Western division.
He said it was exciting to reach divisionals, and feels incredible to reach state.
“I think it mainly [impacts] the community,” said Hannahs on the team’s impact beyond basketball. “People start to realize, ‘oh we’re actually doing something. We’re going places,’ and it gets the student body and community a little more buy-in. Getting that culture of success and culture of winning, I think is going to have a really positive influence on most of our programs.”
Hannahs said Lone Peak High School is lucky to have such a great group of kids.
“Spending this much time with anybody can get exhausting, and you can get sick and tired of people. If it’s happened, they’ve handled it very well. They seem closer than ever. The camaraderie among teammates, with the older kids looking after younger guys, is inspiring.”
On Thursday at 9:45 a.m., the Big Sky School District will hold a community send-off parade in the parking lot between schools. The parking lot will be lined with Big Sky’s students, teachers and community members, cheering on the players as they walk through. The district will also send a bus full of students to Billings for Thursday afternoon’s game.
“I’m so proud of these boys,” Hannahs said. “All the help we’ve gotten from our parents and our school administration, their support has been unbelievable… It takes a village, and everybody has stepped up in such an impressive way.”