BOZEMAN — It’s that time of year again, preseason prep for one of the most dominant squads in southwest Montana.
“This year we definitely have a totally different team,” said Bozeman senior Ryan Simpson. “We usually take advantage of our height, but this year we have a lot of guard play, so hopefully we can take advantage of that and be a really fast team.”
The Bozeman Hawks return a handful of standout athletes to this year’s boys basketball team, like twin towers Simpson and Ryan Lonergan
“We’re going to have a lot more shooters on the 3-point line,” Lonergan said, “and Ryan and I will be a big asset in the paint, so we can kick it out to the shooters on the 3-point line, so definitely all-around we’re gong to be a very athletic team.”
The Hawks are missing a few key pieces, including Mack Anderson, who graduated last year and is now playing at the University of Montana, but head coach Wes Holmquist knows his team will still be ready for anything.
“Actually we have more returning this year than last year with (Simpson and Lonergan) both playing a lot of minutes for us last year and a couple other guys getting some minutes,” Holmquist said. “We have some good experience coming back, as well as some guys who have been working to get here over the last couple years and I know they’re excited to get their opportunity, so it should be fun.”
But the clock is ticking for the senior class, which enters its final season as three-time runner-ups in the state championship.
“We’re not really thinking about that yet,” Holmquist said. “We’re worried about ourselves right now, but obviously the end goal every year is to get to Saturday night. These seniors, they’ve made it there, and I know they want to get back pretty bad.”
Lonergan agreed: “Those three years when we came up short, I think that will motivate us for our senior year to finally win a championship.”
For a school that turns over athletes from every sport, most of the basketball players experienced the defeat in the fall during football season in the state semifinal round, which brought up a big focus point for the winter season: mental toughness.
“That’s something we talk about a lot with this group and it’s been disappointing for them — not in the sense they’ve had disappointing seasons, it just hasn’t ended they way they want,” Holmquist said. “I think they’re hungry right now, I think they’re going to learn from those experiences and not take anything for granted, and I think they’re really excited for what’s ahead.”
The Hawks open up their season at home on Friday against Helena High.