BELGRADE — Logan McMann can smile again.
Bigfork’s senior manager, a self-proclaimed “grumpy kid,” gets to celebrate for the second consecutive March after the Vikings rallied past Missoula Loyola 47-43 for the Class B boys basketball state championship Friday at the Belgrade Special Events Center.
For the second straight year, McMann accepted the first-place trophy on behalf of the Vikings to kick off the championship celebration.
“It’s awesome, it’s great. It’s a great experience,” McMann said. “These are my friends, and it’s an awesome experience being part of this team. I’ve played basketball with them since the fifth grade. I stopped after my freshman year, but Coach (Sam) Tudor just let me be a part of the team, and it’s a great experience. I love it.”
“He’s the man,” Bigfork coach Sam Tudor said. “His mom says that’s the only time he smiles, so there’s something to that.”
Tudor has guided Bigfork to championship appearances three of the past four seasons, leading the Vikings to the 2018 and 2019 State B titles. Friday’s win didn’t come without plenty of drama, though.
The Vikings, playing Western B rival Loyola for the fourth time this season, scored the first point of the game but went cold the rest of the first half. The Rams built a 15-4 advantage by the end of the first quarter and led by 11 points multiple times in the first half. Cooper Waters scored eight points for Loyola in the first 16 minutes while Bigfork made just 8 of 30 first-half shots.
“Loyola gave us all we could handle,” said Tudor. “They had such a good game plan, they stuck to it. When you’re missing your shots like that, it’s tough to keep in it, and that’s why I was proud of these boys for keeping composed.”
Loyola’s lead was 28-19 in the third quarter before Bigfork started its comeback. Logan Gilliard scored on a three-point play, and Colton Reichenbach followed it up with another bucket. Jack Lincoln answered with his basket, but the Rams wouldn’t score the rest of the quarter.
Loyola point guard Jacob Hollenback picked up his fourth foul with the Rams leading 30-28 with 2:48 to go in the third. The Vikings closed the period on a 12-0 run, eight of the points coming with Hollenback on the bench, to take a 36-30 lead into the fourth.
“That was big. (Hollenback is) kind of their heart and soul, and when he was off that’s when we made our run,” Tudor said.
“I knew we weren’t out of it,” added McMann. “That third quarter was big, that really put us back in the game.”
Hollenback returned at the start of the fourth quarter and scored five quick points to get Loyola back within one. The Rams would never take the lead, though, as Bigfork got big plays down the stretch from key seniors — Randy Stultz, Anders Epperly, Luke Schmit, Logan Gilliard and Reichenbach.
Stultz got in the open court for a layup, and Epperly drilled a transition 3-pointer off a Loyola turnover. Schmit, Gilliard and Reichenbach scored crucial points in the fourth quarter, as well.
“When Anders hit that 3-pointer, I thought that was a big — I didn’t give him the go-ahead, but he just did it, and that’s the kind of kid he is. He wasn’t going to be denied,” Tudor said.
Lincoln, who had a game-high 16 points and nine rebounds, brought Loyola within two in the final minute, but the Rams didn’t score again. Waters added 10 points in the loss.
Clayton Reichenbach had a team-high 14 points for Bigfork, with eight of those coming in the first half to keep the Vikings close.
“On offense, they tried to take our key players out,” Clayton Reichenbach said. “We had to just keep running our offense, keep going through until we got a good look, until they slipped up a little bit.”
Gilliard added 13 points for the Vikings, and Epperly, Colton Reichenbach and Schmit each added six to send the seniors out with back-to-back championships.
“This year was so special,” Tudor said. “This bunch of seniors, they’re such good kids. I get choked up talking about them. But hopefully what they’ve established in this program will trickle down, and I think it will. We have some great young talent coming up.”
Maybe there are more smiles in McMann’s future.