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College basketball-bound Gio Horner a catalyst for Missoula Loyola's successful run

Gio Horner 1.jpg
Posted at 4:39 PM, Feb 21, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-21 18:47:30-05

MISSOULA — Sometimes it's hard to quantify effort in sports, but Missoula Loyola senior Gio Horner has it all in spades.

In a sport like basketball, where height is an advantage you can't teach, Horner isn't the tallest, but you better believe her scrappiness and hard-edged play will go toe-to-toe with anyone.

"My coaches have always told me that I'm just an average height, average guard, like there's a lot of me that are my size," Horner said. "And so I think the one thing that stands out for me the most is like my defense and my scrappiness. I have to work extra hard to get down and in the paint. Effort is a huge piece of it. And I have a big heart of love for basketball. So I will work as hard as you want me to on the court."

And it's paid off in a big way for Horner, and Loyola, this season.

Horner and Ora Lindauer are the lone two seniors on this year's Breakers team.

They brought a lot of talent back from last year's run to the State B tournament, but having two veterans and seniors to look to has helped the program take the next step this year.

"I enjoy being one of the two seniors. It's been nice to be able to like teach the younger girls, especially being here for four years," Horner said. "But they look up to the two of us, which is really great to see. And we love all the younger kids. And I just love teaching them."

The Breakers are 17-2 this season and won the District 6B tournament this past weekend. They're undefeated against Class B teams — their lone two losses coming to Havre and Miles City — and Horner has been a big reason why, as a three-year captain and staple in the program who is seeing her efforts pay off with those around her.

The Missoula Loyola girls basketball team poses with the District 6B trophy after winning it this past weekend.

In her senior campaign under head coach Aaron Ward, Horner is averaging 18.9 points, 4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 4.3 steals per game for the Breakers.

"It's definitely made me a better person and a better player," Horner said. "And also the players too. I would not be where I am without any of the girls that I've played with all four years. But the program has really developed me also to be a better teammate and a better player, which I really want to take into college.

"I've had different coaches and I learned something different from each coach. And I think each coach has a piece of me on the court which I take a lot of pride in because I think each of my coaches are really meaningful."

College will be Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, where Horner will continue her basketball career, a lifelong goal she's achieved thanks to her hard work. The Bearcats, who compete at the NCAA Division III level, recently won the Northwest Conference regular-season title.

"I've learned a lot more like skills like this year, I'm working on jumpers, which has been a great development for me," Horner said about her growth. "But shooting has become a really big thing for me, but definitely moving at a faster pace, which was a one main reason I got recruited too so I can thank high school basketball for that."

But there's still plenty to be achieved before it's all said and done, as Horner and the Breakers get set to embark on the final few weeks of the season and hope to bring more hardware back to Loyola. They'll get set to compete at the Western B divisional tournament in Pablo Thursday through Saturday with a shot at state on the line. The State B tournament will be held in Billings March 7-9.

It's been a collective team effort with Horner leading the way, and she's ready to give back to the program that's given so much to her.

"They're all such a great group of girls," Horner said. "And I've never been more excited to go into a state tournament with them, or divisional tournament. So I think that's what has fueled me most to compete also to my best because I want to win it for them. And not only them, but also my coaches. To play for Ward, it's been really fun. I want to win it for him too. But I just love these girls. And I think that's what makes this year my favorite.

"I definitely don't want to miss any time that I have with these girls. I mean, I'm not going to be able to play with them again. I'm not going to be coached under Ward again. So every minute counts. And when state comes around, every minute on the court is going to count and I just can't wait."