Rustler teams storm Butte Civic Center for state tournament

Nick Schulz

Boys reflect on giving  season their best

Overtime: one of the most exciting situations in all of sports. On March 11 the CMR boys basketball team tied Billings West 44-44 at the end of regulation in their second round game after defeating Glacier High 51-46. The final score was 55-49, with Billings West coming out on top. The Rustlers then faced Missoula Sentinel in the loser-out round, where they lost 47-43. It was a strong showing at state that capped off a successful season for the defending state champions, who finished the season with a 15-9 record.

“It was pretty darn successful… we did some really, really good things when people outside of our locker room doubted us,” Assistant Coach Brian Crosby said.

“When we step back and look at this, the fact that we played Friday night at the state tournament… and that we had a chance to play for the state championship…it’s a tremendous benefit to our kids and our coaching staff,” Crosby said. “I think that where we got better is where we turned into a defensive team, and we could just flat lock people down,” he said.

Both Crosby and senior forward Gavin Hagfors identified the loss of senior point guard Jake Bleskin as a huge loss for the team.

“I think Jake Bleskin getting hurt really hurt our team as far as ball handling, and Tyler [Stanich] did a great job of stepping in, but it really would have helped to have a natural point guard,” Hagfors said. 

Even though the Rustlers hit a rough patch and lost several consecutive games on the road, Crosby credits his team for persevering.

“Our kids stayed positive, the kids bought into what the coaching staff was trying to tell them,” Crosby said.

“I think we took it [the streak] pretty constructively; we knew we had to work harder in practice and just become better… start in practice and it will transfer over to games,” Hagfors said, adding that he and his teammates were excited to go to the state tournament.  

“I think we were all really optimistic; we were playing well at that time, and I think we all felt we had a good shot at taking state,” Hagfors said.

Kurtis Parsons of the Rustlers received All-State honors for his average of 12.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.

“Looking back I know all of our kids tried our hardest, and that all you can really ask for,” Hagfors said. “You give it your best, and I feel like everyone on our team did this year, and hopefully that continues in years to come.”

Girls share highlights of rollercoaster season

The last second three-point shot by Hannah Vining in the March 4 playoff game against Great Falls High to send the CMR girls basketball team to the state tournament marked the beginning of a “rollercoaster” state tournament, according to Assistant Coach Steve Yates.

 The girls started the tournament with a 55-38 loss in the first round to Missoula Sentinel, but then bounced back to beat Helena High 50-32 and Butte High 61-48 in the loser-out round. They advanced to the consolation championship, where they lost to Bozeman 54-33, but still secured fourth place in the state tournament.

“Sometimes we let frustration get the better of us,” Yates said, adding that the team almost always “bounced back.”

Yates emphasized how proud he was of the team for what it accomplished this season — especially the seniors.

“It’s anticlimactic when you don’t win it all, and [the seniors] have set a good example,” Yates said. “They have really worked hard and put in the time, and unfortunately even when you do that sometimes it doesn’t work out.”

Yates said that the girls’ lack of consistency was their biggest shortcoming throughout the season, but noted how the players were “very coachable,” and when there was a problem in their play, they “always did their best to fix it.”

Team manager Lindsey Mosley said that turnovers were the Achilles heel of the team this year. Although Mosley wasn’t able to be in the game with the player, she said she would like to have advised them to “stay calm and take good shots.”

Senior point guard Haley Vining expressed her frustration of not being able to contribute to the team due to injury. She also commended her teammates for staying positive throughout the season.               

“We came to practice each day wanting to improve,” Vining said. 

On top of a fourth place season, sophomore Diondra Denton of the Lady Rustlers was recognized for her contributions to the team by being named an AA All-State player. She was the top scorer for the team with an average of 11.4 points per game, helping to lead the Lady Rustlers to a 17-8 season.

All in all, both Vining and Yates had a definite sense of accomplishment and pride in the season when it drew to a close.