COLUMBUS — Teams will do pretty much anything to slow down 6-foot, 9-inch Columbus senior Hayden Steffenson.
“There's definitely clean ways and there's definitely dirty ways, and we've seen them both," Columbus head coach Michael Robinson said. "They just do whatever they can to take him away. I think as far as growth, I think we've got guys ready to step in and fill those shoes when they start dropping two or three down."
Steffenson is the focal point of the Cougars' offense and is a load for opposing teams to handle. He’s grown into his frame and has worked hard in recent years to expand his skill set. Not only can he punish teams inside, but he’s extended the range.
“Over the summer I play for the Montana Rebels, so I get a lot of work in there and see a lot of different competition elsewhere, so that helps a lot. But just slowly working throughout the summer," Steffenson said.
“For him, we talk about growth right now, covering the floor. You're going to have to guard him from start to finish, and I think that's going to be a huge asset," Robinson said.
Steffenson is one of nine seniors on the Cougar roster that aspires of playing Saturday night at the state tournament. Columbus lost a heartbreaker on a last-second shot in the opening round last year to Wolf Point and eventually lost out on Saturday morning, but the experience gained is invaluable.
“Going to state, totally different ball game. I know a lot of those boys want to work hard and get further than last year. It's just totally different. We've got to prepare for it," Steffenson said.
"You could definitely tell come May that we had some kids doing some things that we hadn't in the past, and I think if we can continue that work ethic for the next couple months we'll be just fine," said Robinson.
A big road test looms on Friday night for the Cougars as they head to Lodge Grass to face the unbeaten Indians.