(Editor's note: Gros Ventre broke Old Bull's record hours after this article was published. He poured in a Montana state record 71 points in Lodge Grass's 108-70 win at Huntley Project on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022.)
BILLINGS - Elvis Old Bull is a Montana basketball legend and arguably among the best to ever lace them up at the high school level in the history of the state. Soon, though, one of Old Bull’s records will fall.
Lodge Grass senior Damon Gros Ventre sits at 1,915 career points and is just 33 back of Old Bull’s total of 1,948 as Lodge Grass’s all-time leading scorer.
“It’ll mean a lot. It’ll mean everything, actually. It’ll mean everything. It’s Elvis Old Bull, so, having my name in that conversation – I feel like I’m personally not. I don’t speak for myself – but just being in that conversation, it’ll mean everything," Gros Ventre said of passing Old Bull. "I try to get in the gym as much as I can, because that’s the place where I feel like I can escape reality. I just love it. Especially being by myself, but with my team as well. Being in the gym, my gym, at Lodge Grass, it’s amazing.”
“That’s who I grew up idolizing and wanting to be like. I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’ And if Elvis were here I know he’d be the first to say, ‘Way to go, Damon. I’m proud of you.’ That’s his relative. He blazed that trail for someone to come and pass him. Damon wants that same thing. He knows someone is bound to pass him, he’s just blazing a trail for the next one, and he knows that," Lodge Grass head coach Josh Stewart said. "That’s the best part, is he knows that he got the baton from the generation before us and him and this crew we currently have, they’re leaving that baton for someone behind them. There’s a great group of young ones working hard and wanting to be just like these guys.”
Gros Ventre has been the leading scorer for the Indians each of the past three seasons. The past two years have culminated in state titles, allowing Gros Ventre several postseason games to rack up the points.
Gros Ventre has a career high of 57, which he hit against Joliet during his junior year, and has poured in several 40-point games this season. When he’s in a zone, it’s an absolute nightmare for opposing teams.
“He’ll hit two, three shots in a row and I’ll just look back at the coaches and the players and be like, OK. Damon is capable of doing something special, let’s just turn him loose. Just go, Damon," Stewart said.
“It’s just heating up. I feel like once my first three goes down it’s going to be a good game. And my guys trusting me. They trust me. When I’m hot they know it and the ball comes my way. Just do your thing, you know?” Gros Ventre said.
Those huge scoring outbursts have coincided with victories for Lodge Grass, as the Indians are still unbeaten this season, which includes a sweep of rival Hardin for the first time in 10 years. Even after winning a pair of state titles, complacency failed to creep into the Lodge Grass locker room.
“I looked up to him a lot. Not only him, but everyone on those five banners that were there before I got here," said Gros Ventre. "When we have times of struggle we remind ourselves why we’re here and why we’re doing this. The goal is to get another one. We’ve got two up there. In times of struggle, we just look up at our banners. There’s five up there. That’s our why. That’s what we want to do, add more banners.”
Seven banners hang in the Lodge Grass gym currently. Gros Ventre and his teammates can cement their legacy among the greats by hanging an eighth come mid-march.
“I think a lot of people won’t really feel it until he gets on past his college career and lives his life. They’ll look back and say, ‘Wow, we got to witness something great.’ In the moment I just tell them, ‘Enjoy it guys. Get your camera out, record each other. The bus rides, the locker room. Just have fun, because these are the moments you’re going to remember forever,'" Stewart said. "To be able to coach someone, like Damon, not only Damon, but D.C. (Stewart) and Ty (Moccasin) and the rest of the crew, it’s a blessing. I don’t take it for granted.”