HAMILTON — The high school basketball regular season has come to a close in Class A, and postseason tournaments are right around the corner.
And that means some of the top teams in the state are beginning to eye those tournaments, and that includes the Hamilton Broncs, who are off to a fast start to the season, and they're using success from last year's state tournament, coupled with experience, as the biggest catalysts on this run.
Last year Hamilton entered the State A tournament as the No. 4 seed out of the west. After a first-round loss, the Broncs found their way back into the third-place game where they ultimately lost to Polson, but that experience at the tournament has paid off this year.
"I think it's been pretty awesome to be honest because my freshman year we had a good record but we weren't quite able to make it to state," senior guard Eli Taylor said. "Sophomore year we kind of had a rough year, then junior year we got all the way to the third-place game last year and we were kind of hoping to finish that off this year as seniors to bring home a trophy to Hamilton again."
The Broncs finished the regular season 14-3 and 9-3 in the Southwest A, with two losses coming to defending champion Butte Central, but both contests were close.
That comes in part to Hamilton's experience together as a veteran-laden squad.
"We have four kids returning who started last year, couple of them have started for a few years now and we played a lot together this summer to get us ready so we were excited for it," Blome said. "Still growing and still hoping to play our best basketball at the end of the year."
"I would probably say last year we got pretty close as a team and then this year we always do like team bonding," senior guard Asher Magness added. "Big thing is trust, being able to trust your teammates on the court."
Hamilton's growth has showed throughout the year too. After an early loss to Frenchtown in the season, the Broncs bounced back and won the rematch.
"I would say we're right where we want to be at," Magness said. "I would definitely say, it's definitely been successful, and I've had a great time."
The regular season is in the books, and Hamilton will have two weeks to prepare for postseason play, starting with the Western A Divisional which gets underway in Ronan on Feb. 23. The Broncs will enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed from the Southwest A, behind Butte Central.
From there, it's all about getting back to state, and completing their gradual run.
"I think it definitely has helped us push ourselves more as in we want to bring home a trophy, preferably first place, but we want it just that much more this year now that we know what it takes to get to the state tournament and into those games," Taylor said.