GREAT FALLS — Due to snow storms in central Montana, the traditional Monday challenge game in the Northern C was moved to Sunday afternoon. And the Hays-Lodgepole boys made the most of their roller coaster of a time in Great Falls.
The T-Birds downed Winnett-Grass Range 65-56 to punch their ticket to state but not without a few bumps in the road.
Illness took a toll on the roster, but Derrick Shambo’s team battled through fever, hospital stays, and a rugged bracket to join District 9C rival Chinook as the Northern C representatives at the state tournament in Billings in two weeks.
“These boys just overcome, they put their nose to the grindstone and get after it,” Shambo said. “I got to hand it to them. You know, they’re relentless.”
“We had four starters that were sick. One was in the ER Thursday morning with a 102-degree temperature,” he continued. “Kyle Young was diagnosed with the flu, two bags of IVs run through him, and antibiotics. It just shows the mental toughness that these guys are cable of having. I knew they had this in them. I think they know what they’re capable of doing now.”
The Thunderbirds were the No. 3 seed out of District 9C entering divisionals and dispatched Heart Butte and Roy-Winifred on the way to the final. After a loss to Chinook in the championship game, the team was backed up against the wall against the Rams, and they delivered.
“We feel pretty great about that, coming in here as a No. 3 seed, underestimated, coming out of a tough district, especially,” said forward Jeremy Pretty Paint. “We played tough through everything and accomplished it.”
Hays-Lodgepole will face Southern C champion Melstone in the first round of the State C tournament in Billings on Thursday, March 7 at 8 p.m.