BOZEMAN — For the first time in history all four high school basketball teams in Bozeman are headed to state at the same time. Both programs from Bozeman High and both programs from Gallatin head to Butte on Thursday for the State AA tournament.
The job's not done. Both boys teams went into the divisional tournament with the expectation to make it to State and deservedly so. Now, one of the season-long goals for both teams is front and center: bring home a state title.
Bozeman High boys basketball has already proved they belong with the top dogs of Class AA. They were the no. 1 seed going into the divisional tournament and came up short in the championship against no. 2 Billings West.
“Yeah we need to finish games out better," Bozeman High junior Rocky Lencioni said. "Play a complete game, four quarters. We played the first half super strong and we just kind of fizzled out there at the end, so we got to be able to finish strong.”
But that one loss doesn’t take away from what they’ve accomplished, in fact it gives them fuel to want to go out and win state even more.
“Well we’ve had a good season," Bozeman High Head Coach Troy Hostetler said. "You can’t take that away from us. We’ve had a good season record-wise and in conference, we played pretty well at divisional's, but we want to get a state championship, so we’re there just like everyone else is, trying to win a state championship.
Down the road at Gallatin, they also had the expectation of making it to the final week of postseason play. In just three years since the school opened, the basketball team went from a two-win season to being a two-time state contender.
“It’s huge, I mean that first year we only had two wins the entire season, and to now think we’re going back to state for a second time and hoping to make a little noise there, the program’s come a long way,” Gallatin senior Garrett Dahlke said.
What they want to accomplish is simple and something they've worked all season for.
“That not only do we belong there, but that we’re just as competitive and have just as good of a chance as anyone else in the tournament,” Gallatin Head Coach Michael Claxton said.
There’s a chip on their shoulder, and the end goal has been the same all season.
“Yeah, we definitely got something to prove," Gallatin senior Eli Hunter said. "You know we want to be the best team in the state, and come away with a state championship and that goal hasn’t changed.
Just like the Hawks, the Raptors know what they’re capable of. Three games stand in between a team and a title.
“Going into the season that’s the ultimate goal, and I think that’s still the goal," Dahlke said. "We’ve got to win three more games to get there, and I can certainly see this team doing that.”
Both teams tip off on Thursday in Butte, Bozeman High at 3:30 p.m. against Butte followed by Gallatin at 5 p.m. against Missoula Hellgate.