GREAT FALLS -- Last year the Great Falls Central girls basketball team finished the season with a 3-15 record in its first year as a Class B school.
Just three weeks into the 2021 season, the Mustangs have already topped that mark with a 5-0 undefeated start. Central has much of the same personnel as last year, so what accounts for the turnaround?
“Just experience, I think is the big thing,” said third-year head coach Matt Hauk. “Last year was a little bit of a down year, it was tough transitioning into District 1B, but all that experience from last year just paid dividends and we had a good summer and it's going well.”
And as the saying goes, success leads to more success. The Mustangs didn’t really know what to expect entering this strange season. But with each win, comes a jump in confidence.
“We were kind of nervous coming into the season,” admitted junior Michaela Hauk. “We didn't have a lot of confidence, but as we began to get a couple of wins that really helped and now we know we can do this, we can win. And we've just had that mentality throughout the season.”
The Mustangs made the jump from District 10C to District 1B last year, which is about as daunting a transition as a small school can make.
“The difference is you never have a night off in District 1B. I mean, in 10C you'd have some of those games where you could not be playing your best and still win,” coach Hauk said. “If you're not playing your best in 1B you don’t just lose, you get really beat up on.”
District 1B is historically among the most competitive leagues in the state, with teams like Fairfield, Shelby, Choteau and Rocky Boy consistently contending for divisional and state hardware. The Mustangs took their lumps in their first year but have learned what it takes to thrive in year two.
“We tried to work hard and expect what was coming the first year and it didn't work out very well,” laughed junior Alexis Cook. “But this year we knew more of what to expect and we were definitely ready and we've been able to push through all of our games.”
The road only gets tougher from here. Central holds conference wins against Conrad, Shelby, Rocky Boy and Cut Bank but has yet to face a team with a winning record. That will change over the next two weeks with games against Choteau (3-2) and Fairfield (4-0) on deck. But coach Hauk thinks his team might just be scratching the surface of what it's capable of.
“We’re still pretty young. We only have one senior, so a lot of them are learning what they can do,” he said. “We have some athletic girls, we're kind of small, but we're athletic, and they're building and just learning new things every day.”
Though this is just Central’s second year in Class B it will also be the last. With a 25 percent drop in enrollment, GFCC has been reclassified to Class C for the 2021-22 school year and will join District 8C next winter.