THOMPSON FALLS — Last year, Thompson Falls put itself on the map with its first winning girls basketball season since 2014.
Thompson Falls fell just short at the Western B divisional tournament, but after losing just two seniors from that squad, the Blue Hawks entered this season with high expectations. So far, they've started 8-2, including a big win over Anaconda on Saturday, and are proving they're every bit a contender in the Class B field in a loaded Western B.
Their message is simple, but so far, effective.
"We just have a lot of returning girls. Girls got a year older and we’ve just been playing as one as a team and we’ve just gotten really stronger as a team and we’ve become more of a family this year," senior forward and captain Megan Baxter said. "We have a passion for the game, we have a passion for playing for each other and I think that’s just really special that we just love each other so much, try not to get angry at each other on the court. We just really try to play for each other and I think that’s really special."
The Blue Hawks sport four seniors including Baxter, fellow captain Jody Detlaff, Faith Frields and Riley Wilson, a group of players who have suited up together since they were in elementary school.
As they grew up in the program and now are led by second-year coach Chadd Laws, Thompson Falls has hit the ground running after learning the new systems a year ago.
"It’s kind of just been a cumulative (effort) from all of our years playing together," Detlaff said. "It helps to have seniors but seniors aren’t everything. Freshmen are our foundation and if they start playing with the seniors the skills are going to grow, then they’re going to become the seniors one day that teach the freshmen. It’s just kind of helping give back and then helping your teammates grow.
"We’ve been playing together a long time, it’s just we’ve grown to care for each other a lot. I feel like we try to sacrifice our own success for the success of others and of the team."
"The seniors, they’re showing not only our JV program and C-squad program but our junior high program what it’s like to play at a high level and they’re trying to pass that on and emulate what we look for and that is a team that’s going to run and that’s going to play hard," Laws added.
State is the ultimate goal, as Thompson Falls has its eyes set on returning to the State B tournament for the first time since 2003. Baxter leads the team in scoring with 16 points per game while averaging a double-double with 12 rebounds and four blocks per contest as well. Detlaff averages 11 points and nine rebounds while sophomore Ellie Baxter, Megan's younger sister, averages 13 points and six assists per game.
The Blue Hawks are set for a big Western B week with Missoula Loyola (9-2) on Friday and then at Eureka (8-3) on Saturday. The Lions are one of two teams to beat Thompson Falls with a 49-42 win earlier in the year.
But the Blue Hawks' focus remains on the next task as February begins and the regular season begins to wind down.
"We have just been really trying to focus one game at a time, and if it takes us (to state), then we're going to try and play our heart out," Baxter said. "We're not looking too far ahead to the future as much. We're just trying to play each game, each practice, each minute just one-by-one.
"I'm really excited for it to keep going and I can't wait to see where we go."