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'Everybody wants more': After dominant title run, Missoula Loyola eyes rare 3-peat

Missoula Loyola Boys State B title 2024
Posted at 5:29 PM, Mar 29, 2024

MISSOULA — Expectations for the boys basketball team at Missoula Loyola Sacred Heart High School were through the roof entering this last winter, but somehow, some way the Rams found a way to even exceed those as they went a perfect 25-0 this past season and won their second straight State B championship.

For the Rams, they hate to lose, and having lost just one game over the past two years, they've made sure to keep that feeling minimal, as they made history once again for the school earlier this month.

"We've made history," junior forward Ethan Stack said. "So I think it's keep winning, like no one wants to lose. I feel like if you have that competitive fire and you want to keep what's rolling rolling, and I would say we are rolling. So nobody wants to give that up. Everybody's doing it for each other. I do it for all the guys around me. I know they have my back."

To put it simply, Loyola was dominant in its encore performance.

The Rams won just one game by single digits.

The rest? Blowout after blowout.

"What drives us to win is when you hate more to lose than you love to win," junior guard Declan Harrington said. "So it's kind of those close games and the losses, especially, that stick with us more than the wins. So that's kind of how we keep the winning culture going."

As the season ended, junior Rey Johnston was also named the program's first-ever Gatorade player of the year, given to the state's top player.

But for him, it's equally a team award.

"It's just like a cherry on top to end the season, you know, for me, and, you know, how I found out was my best friend Ethan told me. He deserved the award just as much as I did," Johnston said. "And he's a big part of why I got the award, and my whole team is honestly. ... They’re the reason why I had my success this season."

With back-to-back titles now secured under head coach Scott Anderson, the future continues to look bright as the Rams aim to make history.

Four impactful seniors will move on in Noah Haffey, Carter Topp, Talen Reynolds and Taylor Jones, but Loyola returns a talented, experienced and strong core including Johnston, Stack, Harrington, fellow juniors Jack Clevenger and Braden McGuirl as well as sophomores Jamo Kendrick and Finn Haffey as they aim to be the first Class B boys program to three-peat since Lodge Grass did it from 1988-1990.

"We're just gonna have a bigger target on our back, you know, but we just got to have that same mentality going into practice. ... We play the best team in the state every night and we just got to keep doing that," Johnston said. "Keep pushing each other, you know, keep trying to give each of our best every night."

And for a group that has played together forever, the run has been special and memorable, and one they hope culminates in another state title next winter with Missoula playing host to the State B tournament.

"Just stay in the gym. Keep getting stronger," Stack said. "I know when we won it my sophomore year that nobody took a rest. Nobody was like we got it done, OK, now we're good. No, it was back in the gym, back in the weight room. Everybody wants more. And I think that's what drives this team to do more is like nobody is satisfied."

"Just the fact that it's our last season together," Harrington added. "We started this team in third grade, five of the seniors had been playing together since third grade. So I think it's going to be special just to have another season playing together. But the fact that there's so much at stake makes it that much more exciting. We could be the second-ever Class B team to three-peat. And that's going to be our goal."