GREAT FALLS — The high school basketball season ended over a week ago, but there are still plenty of stories to unpack – including a delightful moment at the State A girls tournament in Great Falls.
As the clock ran down on Havre’s undefeated season in a 42-35 win over Hardin, Blue Pony head coach Dustin Kraske called senior guard Ryen Olson off the bench.
Her smile lit up, and her teammates went wild.
“I was like yes, I want to play so bad,” Olson said of the moment she checked in. “I want to be with my girls.”
Olson’s name had been absent from the stat sheet all tournament save for one free throw in the semifinals against Browning. But nevertheless she was ready and ecstatic when she made her way to the scorers table.
“There was no way I wasn’t dressing out for this game,” she said in a matter of fact tone after the game. “If there was a split second that I could get in, I was going to take advantage of it.”
You see, minutes were few and far between for Olson over the last few weeks. In a February game, the sharp-shooting guard suffered a devastating knee injury, tearing her ACL, her meniscus and her patellar tendon.
The injury derailed her senior season, but not her outlook and attitude. As a senior and competitor she opted to put off surgery/ She wanted to be remain a part of the team and decided to try and play through the pain and discomfort.
She donned a massive full leg brace and gave it a shot at the Eastern A divisionals but her body failed her.
“I wore this big brace, and I was running and it just buckled out on me,” she said. “There was a point where I just couldn’t run.”
Olson could no longer contribute on the court, but she dang sure was going to help her team off of it. She served as a cheerleader and vocal leader for the Blue Ponies as they capped off a 24-0 year.
“I’m so unbelievably proud of them, I couldn’t ask for better teammates,” Olson said. “And to be able to get in the last couple seconds, that’s all I wanted. Just to step on the floor.”
Kraske gave her what she wanted, and with less than a minute left in the game Olson subbed in for fellow senior Marca Herron. The two teammates embraced on the way out and Kraske cracked a rare smile on the sideline.
“Coming into her senior year, she had to change her game to play on this team and she changed her game,” Kraske said about Olson. “She had an unfortunate thing happen, blowing her knee out. But she came back. She couldn’t play very much obviously so to get her a chance in her senior year, to play in a state championship. Those were great memories for everybody.”