BOZEMAN — On January 14, a new crosstown rivalry kicked off, but the result was unexpected. The Gallatin Raptors boys basketball team, the brand new high school made up of juniors and below in Bozeman defeated the Hawks, 62-60 on their home court. They play again Friday night at Gallatin.
“They did a better job, they just played better than we did," said Bozeman head coach Troy Hostetler. "We were a little tentative, they were not and that’s what it takes to win those games.”
“I just thought they wanted to win more," said Bozeman senior guard Padraig Lang. "They got after loose balls, got after loose rebounds, just played a little harder than we did.”
For the Raptors the win was them letting Bozeman know they belonged.
“Being a new school we didn’t want to be a pushover team and we wanted to let the Hawks know that we’re ready to play with them,” said Gallatin junior forward Rylan Schlepp.
Schlepp set the tempo for the young Gallatin team in game one of the series with a team-high 14 points.
"He’s a force in the middle for us, we were able to play around him a little bit -- which he drew a lot of attention from the Hawks defense, which opened up a lot of opportunities around the perimeter for some of our other guys,” said Raptors head coach Mike Claxton.
Now, Bozeman is eager to get back on the court and prove to the Raptors that the previous game was a flash in the pan.
“We got play our hardest from the start to the finish, we got to come out ready to play and we got to end ready to play," said Bozeman junior guard Ty Huse.
For most of these young men, they’ve been playing together their entire lives and at the end of the day they’re still friends with lots of respect for each other.
“Not being able to play with them, but getting to play against them -- that’s definitely fun for sure," said Raptors junior forward Tyler Nansel. "We know those guys like the back of our hand and they know us, so it’s really just about going out there and winning.”
“When you’re playing they’re your opponent, but after, you're not on the court -- they’re friends, they’re people you’ve known for awhile,” Huse said.
Most of all despite being friends and now rivals on the court, the previous game was an escape for all that has been going on in our world.
“It just felt like there was a little bit of normalcy there, that the community came together," Claxton said. "The kids had a great experience, I think the fans and the parents and everybody that was involved, for a second there, I forgot what was going on in our world, it makes me very happy.”