BILLINGS – Roundup’s boys can’t forget March 4, 2017.
“Losing that game was everything,” lamented Panthers guard Jayce Griffith. “We thought we had a really good shot, it just didn’t work out.”
“That kind of stung a little bit when we lost because we beat them earlier,” said forward Kelson Eiselein. “We’ve kind of kept that in mind and we’ve kind of used it for motivation a little bit.”
The Panthers were one game away from breaking an 11-year state tournament drought, but came up short against a Whitehall team they had beaten just two days earlier.
Fast forward 11 months and Roundup looks hungrier than ever to join that 2006 squad.
“I look up to those guys,” said Griffith. “I mean, it was awesome watching them at that state tournament.”
“That ’06 team was a great team, and they won games when they needed to, but we just want to make our own identity,” Eiselein said.
Eiselein and Griffith have given them one. The two all-state returners have the Panthers at 13-1, ranked third in the state in the latest MontanaSports.com power poll.
“They’ve got to be the two most unselfish players in the state,” said Roundup head coach Rick Griffith. “They don’t care who does what. You know, our motto on offense is not who does it, it’s how we do it.”
Eiselein does it from everywhere. The rare 6-foot-5 forward can burn teams inside, outside, and off the dribble.
“What really helped me was getting on the AAU circuit,” said Eiselein. “I’ve been to Seattle and Anaheim and Vegas. That really helped me get some exposure and see what some of the top recruits, their skill sets are.”
“It’s the personable side of him that makes him such a good team player,” Rick Griffith said. “He’s capable of 30 (points) a night, but he doesn’t have to have them to be happy.”
He’s happy, in fact, to defer to Jayce Griffith a lot of the time, who has impressed even Coach Dad.
“Basketball is something I’ve always loved, and he’s enjoyed it,” said the elder Griffith. “I can’t put it into words.”
“It’s great having my little brother right there, and my dad coaching me all the time, it’s definitely unforgettable,” said Jayce.
That’s what the Panthers are hoping this season will be. One reason that has the head coach confident?
“That last eight minutes, they seem to find a way to get it done, and you don’t always have that,” Rick Griffith said.
“We’ve been down 15 in the fourth quarter and we come back to win those games, so we’re battle-tested,” said Eiselein.
“Tournament time is one of those things you just never forget. I just can’t wait,” he said.
To push out last year’s memories and make way for sweeter ones.