Big Horns lace up, shoot high for basketball season ahead
By Bay Stephens EBS Staff Writer
Fall sports officially came to an end when the girls volleyball team was knocked out of the district tournament at Manhattan Christian School Oct. 24-26, and now Lone Peak High School’s basketball teams are dusting off their shots. Head coaches of the girls and boys basketball teams, Ausha Cole and Brian Van Eps, respectively, gave EBS a preview of the season ahead.
The Lady Big Horns will be hitting the court with a young team this year, explained Cole, who’s led the team for the past two years and been on the team staff for the past three. She said freshmen Kassidy Boersma and Carly Wilson will be strong additions to the roster.
“Kass has height and a great shot while Carly is a strong ball-handler and defender,” Cole said of these young players. As for returning talent, coach Cole looks to junior Emma Flack and senior Solae Swenson to lead the team.
With a team of nine players, last year’s record was above .500—they won more games than they lost—but with a team of 10-11 players this year, Cole’s expectations are high: a winning season and top-two placement in the conference. Their biggest obstacles will be Manhattan Christian and West Yellowstone.
“I think it’s also fair to expect an opportunity to go to state,” Cole said. “If these girls work hard and want it bad enough, they’ll make it happen.”
On the boys’ side of the court, Van Eps steps in as the third head coach in three years after Al Malinowski stepped down two years ago and Austin Barth moved on to teach in Anaconda.
Although this will be Van Eps’ first year as head coach, he’s worked with many of the players as their middle school and junior varsity coach the past four years. John Hannahs, who doubles as the athletic director, will be Van Eps right-hand man, coaching JV and assisting with varsity.
After last year’s 8-11 season, the team only graduated two players: Liam Germain and Jackson Wade. The senior trio of Colton March, Milosz Shipman and Kolya Bough, along with juniors Frankie Starz and Austin Samuels, comprise the team’s backbone of upperclassmen.
Van Eps said speed and shooting will be their strengths this season, not their size. The “X Factor” in his mind is how the team matches up defensively, especially against height-stacked teams.
“We’ll be fun to watch, I’ll tell you that,” Van Eps said.
The top two teams in the district tournament go to the divisional tournament, terrain the Big Horn boys basketball team has never traversed. Only the league’s perennial powerhouses, Manhattan Christian and Gardiner, stand between the Big Horns and their goal.
“Our whole year will be a buildup to knock off one of those two teams,” Van Eps said.