ANACONDA – Memorial Gymnasium in Anaconda is more than ready for basketball to return to its historic floors. The Copperheads are on of the most storied programs in all of Class B, but there will be some new challenges for the boys team this year, as they lost star players Braxton Hill and Trent Mikalatos. But first-year head coach Rochi Estes says that the focus that used to be put on single players like Hill and Mikalatos will now shift to a more combined team effort.
“Last year, we were more individual because we had those outstanding players. I’m trying to get defense into the program and share the ball offensively, but still attack, be aggressive, but create for one another,” said Estes.
One thing this team didn’t lose is its fight. The Copperheads will be one of the scrappiest teams in Class B and will create a lot of problems for teams not used to its physicality.
“I think we’re a really tough team,” junior Dylan Smith said. “We get into the paint, box out and grab a lot of rebounds. We’re going to fight hard, we’re going to play to the last minute. It doesn’t matter what the score is, we’re going to keep playing until the last minute, and we’re going to have fun with it.”
Moving over to the girls team, the Copperheads are bringing back crucial experience to their lineup. Last year was a year head coach Andy Saltenberger loved to put behind him, as his squad struggled in the turnover department due to a lack of experienced ball-handlers. But Saltenberger is already seeing a complete turn in the team’s play.
“Our turnover numbers are down,” Saltenberger said. “Just watching the girls, they’re making better decisions, where last year that youth really showed. I mean, some of our games we had enough turnovers for three games, and this year it’s slimmed down a lot.”
Now that they have cleaned up their game from last year, the Copperheads have their eyes set on the state tournament and their games against their biggest rival about 15 miles west down I-90.
“I think our biggest rival is Deer Lodge,” senior Lindsey Seitzinger said. “They’ve been our rival for a long time and we haven’t beaten them, and we’ve played them my whole life, so it’d be kind of cool to beat them this year.”
Both Anaconda squads tip off the new season Friday in Three Forks for a weekend tournament.