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State AA boys: Bozeman Gallatin claims program's first state basketball title

Bozeman Gallatin boys basketball
Posted at 10:38 PM, Mar 09, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-10 01:07:58-05

MISSOULA — For the first time in school history, Bozeman Gallatin is the Class AA boys basketball state champion.

The Raptors used a balanced offensive attack and shut-down defense en route to a 62-45 win over Missoula Sentinel in the championship game Saturday at Dahlberg Arena.

"It means everything to our new school and to us, the guys, the coaches, the managers, the families that have supported us all year long," said Gallatin coach Michael Claxton. "This is for them. We came out and we wanted to prove something to ourselves more than anything, prove that we were, in the top class in the state, one of the best. And tonight shows that we are there. We've arrived and we belong."

Gallatin has showed it belonged well before this championship, reaching the state tournament each of the past two years. Those seasons ended in narrow losses, but the Raptors left little doubt Saturday.

They jumped out to a 14-8 lead after the first quarter and — while Sentinel never went away and hung around deep into the fourth quarter — controlled the game throughout. The Raptors led 29-18 at halftime and 46-36 going to the fourth.

"Four years ago, we knew we could be here, and so we've been preparing for that since the day I walked in the doors," said Gallatin senior Jack Repscher. "The whole team has been knowing that we're a team that could go get it done. Just grit and hard work and dedication, that's how you get a title."

Zad Rodarte scored a team-high 16 points for the Raptors, who got big contributions across the board. Grant Vigen had a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds; Repscher scored 12 points; Mac Melin added nine points; and Troy Hugs had four points, eight rebounds and four assists.

Sentinel, which ends its season with a 13-11 overall record, was led by the duo of Grady Walker and Lincoln Rogers. Walker had 25 points, and Rogers had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Rogers had three 3-pointers, including two from well beyond the college line — one in the third quarter that helped Sentinel stay within striking distance.

"This is the state championship. They're here for a reason, they've won just as many games as we had to to get here, so we knew that they could bring it. And they went on their little runs that they had, and we knew they were going to have those runs, but we know we have to stay calm under pressure and go get done what we do," Repscher said.

Every time the Spartans seemed to be making a run in the second half, Gallatin had an answer. The Raptors ultimately used an 8-0 spurt late in the fourth quarter to grow a 52-41 lead to 60-41 and start the championship celebration.

"I'll be able to look back 30, 40 years from now and say I was the first one to ever win a championship in basketball at that school," Repscher said. "It's amazing. It feels great."

Earlier in the day, Billings West won the third-place trophy with a 78-62 win over Butte. Both the Golden Bears and Bulldogs lost in the first round Thursday and then battled back through the consolation bracket.

Braden Zimmer had a 20-point, 15-rebound double-double for the Bears, who also defeated Great Falls CMR 44-42 in a Saturday morning loser-out game. West also got 13 points from Cooper Tyson and 11 points each from Shaydon Randall and Mason Brosseau in the consolation final.

Butte, which knocked off Helena Capital 51-42 in an earlier loser-out game, was led by Hudson Luedtke. The sophomore scored 30 points, 24 of which came in the first half.

Saturday loser-out scores

Billings West 44, Great Falls CMR 42

Butte 51, Helena Capital 42