BIG SKY — Before this season, Lone Peak boys basketball had never made it past the district tournament. This postseason, the team played 10 games in 13 days to make it through the divisional tournament to state.
Game one of 10 was a play-in against Bridger in Billings. The Big Horns came out with a sizable win and didn’t even realize they were on the cusp of a historic postseason run.
“One of the assistant coaches came up to me and said let’s take a picture, just in case," senior Gus Hammond said. "Road to state. You never know what can happen, and I just looked back at that picture this morning and said, 'We did it.' So game No. 1, I realized that it was going to be a different year because, quite frankly, we won. Last year we only won three games. So we put it together and ever since then it’s been pretty smooth.”
Flash forward nine games, the Big Horns are coming off a consolation win over West Yellowstone and challenge Harrison-Willow Creek who fell to Manhattan Christian in the divisional championship. They win, and they're in.
“We have nothing to lose," senior Ben Saad said. "They’re a tough team, they had already beat us three times. We knew that if we played well and played disciplined, we could make it a good game. And it happened to be our night, and it went well.”
Those five words: we have nothing to lose. That mindset creates a dangerous team in a postseason, which Lone Peak has become. And that tenth win, it didn’t just mean something to the team. It meant something the the community that has waited nine years for a run like this.
“It was really neat, we had players reach out for me before the game, sending messages to the current players about what they wanted to see them do," Head Coach Al Malinowski said. "So, I think it was really a community win, a program win more than just this team winning that game.”
“I’ve been at this school my whole life, and I’ve been playing basketball since I was in sixth grade," senior Max Romney said. "So it finally feels good to get a winning season and to go somewhere with it.”
And this team has been defying odds not just these past few weeks, but this entire season. The ability to keep moving forward despite tough roadblocks is what Malinowski enjoys most about his team.
“I think their resilience, I mean we lost a player before the season started in the last football game of the year," Malinowski said. "We lost another player over break. So, we’ve been constantly in flux, and we’ve adjusted well to that. I just think this team is resilient.”
And for now, the team is just taking it all in.
“It’s the best thing in the world," Hammond said. "I’ve been playing basketball here my entire life. It’s my senior year, and I said, “I’ve got to give it all.” Man, we’ve got a great team, a great group of guys, and a great coaching staff that have put it together and made it happen.”
They tip off at the State C tournament on Thursday against Broadus, a No. 1 seed from the Southern division. And if there’s one thing they’ve proven, do not count them out.