MISSOULA – 2017 was an incredible year for high school basketball, and multiple teams made historic turns. Let’s take a look back at three teams who became champions.
Prior to the 2017 Class A Girls basketball state championship match, the Columbia Falls Wildcats girls hadn’t won a state title since 1983. That all changed on March 4 – 34 years after their previous championship, the Columbia Falls girls dominated Hardin with an impressive 73-50 victory.
But it was hard fought – the Hardin Bulldogs pulled away to an early 8 point lead. But once the Wildcats got in the zone, the game was sealed.
“We just had to drop our nerves. We were all nervous coming into this game, and we knew it was going to be a fight at the beginning,” said Wildkats senior Peyton Kehr. “[Hardin’s] crowd is so hyped, and we were just so excited, we just had to take a step back and look at where we are and where we wanted to go. We just pulled it together and pulled through.”
A week later, Glacier High School’s Wolfpack took the Class AA boys basketball state championship. It was just ten years into the programs lifetime; a drop in the bucket compared to other AA teams. It was also the first championship victory in the history of Glacier High School boys basketball and the Wolfpack found themselves the top-seeded team in the West. They faced the top-seeded East team in the Bozeman Hawks. Glacier took it 46-42, but the Wolfpack was confident going in.
“From the beginning [Harkins] knew we could do it,” said Wolfpack senior forward Jaxen Hashley. “We had shirts that said, ‘Believe’, and we believed. We believed in him first and foremost, and from there on out we just did whatever he told us to do, and believed in him, and got us where we are today.”
While Glacier celebrated their victory, down south the Arlee Warriors were getting ready to finish off an incredible season with an incredible win. The Warriors went into the Class C state title game with a near-perfect record, and they were intent on giving Arlee its very first basketball state title.
For the boys on the court, it wasn’t about them – winning this game was about the community they represent. Not just Arlee, but the entire Flathead Reservation.
“Next to birth, I think this is the greatest thing,” said Arlee senior Tyler Tanner with a smile. “The community was behind us the whole way, and we finally did it for them. This is the first one Arlee got so all our names are written on it, so I think it touched everybody’s heart.”
Each of these teams pushed beyond their limits and accomplished great things for themselves, for each other and for their communities.