BOZEMAN — The first crosstown matchup of the season in Bozeman tips off on Thursday night, and both Bozeman High and Bozeman Gallatin are playing for more than bragging rights.
As two of the top teams in the conference, each team knows how important a win is for its program.
"It’s another conference opponent," Gallatin boys basketball coach Michael Claxton said. "We know the standings are going to be tight, and so any win you can take in our conference is going to be valuable come postseason, going into the divisional tournament with hopefully a higher seed than we’ve ever had. That’s the goal."
"We just want to go week to week and see if we can win weeks," Bozeman boys basketball coach Troy Hostetler said. "We went 2-0 last week, that was a good start in conference play, and obviously the goal is to go 1-0 this week."
Both teams understand that playing with their own pace is going to be key on Thursday night and could determine who will come out on top.
"Definitely just stay together and play our basketball," Gallatin junior forward Grant Vigen said. "They’re a big, physical team, but we just can’t let them get us out of the game that we play."
"Playing with our pace, keeping our emotions in check, of course," Bozeman senior forward Chapman Wiehardt said. "I guess kind of just playing freely, so our offense, we aren’t nervous with our shots, and we aren’t missing shots. We’re ready to go."
This game and rivalry has really grown since Gallatin opened its doors four years ago, which also means this is the first group of players which have spent the entire high school career with the Raptors.
"It’s been a long journey and a lot of work that the players put in and a strong level of commitment, but I feel like now we’re, we’ve arrived and understand what our conference is about," Claxton said.
One thing that’s guaranteed is an electric atmosphere for this game. No matter which school is hosting, the stands are packed — which makes it one of the most exciting events of the year for the community.
"Well it doesn’t necessarily feel like a road game," Hostetler said about the first game being at Gallatin. "Obviously, we’re the road team in that game, but we’ll have lots of support there. So, it’s a fun atmosphere to be in."
"I think people in our community, this might be the game that they come out for, for the season, you know," Claxton said. "That they really want to see it. Just the atmosphere is great. The rivalry is great for our community."
The game tips off at 7 p.m. at the Raptors' gym on Thursday night.