BUTTE — Even in the aftermath of a tough overtime loss to perennial powerhouse Manhattan Christian in the District 12C championship on Saturday, the West Yellowstone boys recognized that even being in that game marked a major milestone for their program.
"We haven't gone to divisionals in 23 years," said junior Taylor Hales. "Just for us even taking second, like we haven't put a banner on a wall or anything like that. Just doing that is amazing."
After falling to Manhattan Christian 74-50 back in December, the Wolverines were big-time underdogs against the Eagles in the district championship. But West Yellowstone pushed MC to the brink, holding the Eagles to seven points in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
From there, the teams evenly exchanged field goals and free throws, eventually leading to MC clinging to a 66-65 lead with 21.7 seconds remaining. Tebarek Hill then fired off a full-court pass to Seth Amunrud who dropped in the layup to all but seal the game. Amunrud would finish with a game-high 27 points.
"It's tough losing, especially against a team like that," Hales said. "We really wanted to go beat them. Not very many teams get a chance to go beat them."
The loss stung, but Wolverines head coach Jeff Matthews said he was still immensely proud of how his team played in the biggest game they've been in this century.
"They played as hard as they could," Matthews said. "They worked as a team to get to this point. And then to come out tonight on the biggest stage that we've had this year and play their best basketball was an awesome thing. I want them to feel proud of themselves. Our community has been awesome, they've been very supportive."
The Wolverines are now assured of hanging a district tournament banner in their gym. But after punching a ticket to the Western C for the first time since before any of its current players were born, West Yellowstone is looking for more.
And, make no mistake about it, they're gunning for a rematch against the defending divisional champion Eagles in the Western C title game.
"We walked about it and it's like we'll get another shot," Hales said. "We want them at divisionals and if we don't get them at divisionals we'll go get them at state."
With their confidence soaring after giving one of the best teams in the division all it could handle, the Wolverines are now focused in on booking a trip to the State C tournament in Great Falls.
"We got the kids to it," Matthews said. "We go the team to do it. We got the community behind us to do it. I'm proud to be a West Yellowstone Wolverine and I'm proud of my boys."