BELGRADE — The Belgrade Panthers boy’s basketball team is hitting the hardwood this summer as they prepare for their second season under head coach Luke Powers.
It was a rough first season for Powers and Belgrade, but 2020 was all about growth.
“We have the number 374 on our practice jerseys and that’s because the score at halftime of our first game was 37-4 (against Great Falls),” said Powers. “(The) next time we played Great Falls High, the score at half-time was 34-29.”
The Panthers finished last year with a 2-12 record. It didn’t help that the team had to get introduced to a new coach last summer, while also navigating COVID-19 protocols.
“It definitely hurt,” said senior forward Austin Spangler. “We were definitely behind the curve. We didn’t really know our sets or plays. We didn’t really have the chemistry that we could have had if we had a whole summer to get used to each other.”
This summer they are way ahead of where they were a year ago.
“We’ve played 30 summer basketball games already,” Powers said. “We couldn’t do anything like that last year. We were able to have a small camp like this, but to be able to play those games is really important.”
In his second year with the team, Powers is returning all five starters, including one of the top scorers in the state Ta’veus Randle who averaged 16.4 points per game last season. They also return their second leading scorer Wyatt Russel who averaged 11 ppg.
“This is the most talented group of kids that I’ve had since I’ve been in Montana,” said Powers, who coached at Butte High before coming to Belgrade. “The important thing there again is the natural talent level that we’re going to have. The ability to defend 94 feet. The ability to rebound the ball with other AA teams then also that learning curve is kind of over so we can start to really perfect the things we want to do.”
Now, the team feels as though they’re ready to take down top AA teams.
“I think we’re at a point as a program where there’s absolutely no excuses there,” Powers said. “We’re not pretending we were Class A a few years ago. We’re a AA team and we’re going to compete with AA programs.”