GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls CMR basketball teams are ready for the season and looking to improve on where they finished last year.
It’s Year 2 for Rustlers head girls coach Haley Vining. She will have her team looking to improve on the 5-12 finish from the 2022-23 season.
“Definitely a lot more prepared, kind of know what to expect in terms of what the league is all about and things like that,” said Vining. “I think the girls have a lot more experience than we did last year, so I think everyone is just feeling like we are in a better situation than we were in last year.”
The Rustlers graduated four seniors from last year's class but will now have six seniors on this team. Members on the team feel having so much veteran leadership will help this squad to stay positive throughout the season.
“A lot of times we get down on ourselves, so we just need someone who will lift everyone up and bring everyone with them,” said senior Macie Wheeler. “I think all of our seniors can be strong leaders.”
On the other side of things, the boys are coming off an 8-10 season and returning just one starter, River Wasson. Head coach John Cislo told MTN he is not concerned with the amount of returning starters or inexperience on this years team because playing AAU over the summer has helped his players gain the experience they may have needed.
Out of last year's eight wins, six of them came during conference play. With another challenging year in the Eastern AA ahead, the Rustlers are looking to finish in the top half of conference and make a deep playoff push.
“I think our first goal is to get through our conference and make it to state. Obviously while we are at state we are going to try to make a splash,” said junior forward Dean Blair. “We haven’t won since 2018, so I think we’re trying to create a culture of winning again.”
The CMR squads open their season against Kalispell Glacier on Friday. The girls will be on the road and the boys will play their first game in the renovated field house at 7 p.m.