BOZEMAN — Bozeman Gallatin boys basketball, like many of school's athletics in the last two years, is making strides. Entering its third year of existence, last season's team went to state and proved it belonged amidst the heavy hitters in Class AA.
“Those growing pains that we experienced in year one, when we were getting pushed around and bullied by most teams in the AA level, we were able to make some steps last season,” third year head coach Michael Claxton said.
Some of those steps included games in which they handled themselves against tough opponents, like in the state quarterfinals where they gave eventual state champion Helena Capital all they had.
“The successes and the failures that we experienced at the state tournament have provided a lot of motivation,” Claxton explained. “We played against the state champion and we believed that we weren't far behind them.”
It’s been gradual improvement under Claxton, who had previous coaching stints in downtown Seattle and overseas. After an inaugural two-win season, last year Claxton and his group went 12-13 overall while going .500 in Eastern conference play. Those experiences and improvement have and continue to help the team grow and prepare for the physical season ahead.
“I'm most excited about trying to form a group that they play for the team, play for each other [and] have each other's back,” Claxton said.
The Raptors lost a handful of upperclassmen from last year but with the return of first team all-state guard Eli Hunter, the backcourt is experienced and ready to go along with a roster that saw postseason action last season.
The team has its first test Dec. 9 on the road against Butte.