By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER
With varsity boys tied at 13 after the first quarter and again at 29 by halftime, the Sheridan High School Panthers challenged the Lone Peak High School Big Horns on Friday night.
Midway through the third quarter, senior captain Max Romney electrified the gymnasium with a breakaway dunk, extending the Big Horns lead to 37-29. He added another dunk in the third quarter. In his final home game, they were Romney’s only career dunks at home. Seven days earlier against Class B Townsend, Romney slammed the first dunk in Lone Peak history, according to head coach Al Malinowski.
“It’s just fun,” Romney said. “I’ve played in that gym for my whole life since I was in fifth grade, fun to get one more ride in it. I was really feeling the crowd tonight, and a lot of energy… I was feeling bouncy, I don’t know.”
By the end of the third quarter, the Big Horns had outscored the Panthers 21 to 6 and taken a 50-35 lead.The crowd looks on as senior Max Romney elevates for a dunk against Sheridan High School. PHOTO BY JACK REANEY
With five minutes remaining in the fourth, Romney and fellow senior Ben Saad pursued a two-on-one breakaway. Romney made an ambitious alley-oop attempt on which Saad could not capitalize, to the dismay of coach Malinowski, who called a timeout.
“I would have loved it,” Malinowski said. “I told them that. [I said], ‘If you make it, I’m happy with that,’ but it just came at a point in the game where two points still seemed pretty important. Now looking back, I’m so glad they tried it… Same with [Romney’s] two dunks. If he had missed, I would have been frustrated too. But he put them down.”
It was a high stakes game,” said senior captain Gus Hammond. “We had to win it basically to get a good seed in districts… We still took risks and made it as fun and possible.”
All four seniors scored, which Malinowski said was both a cool and rare way to represent a group effort on Senior Night.
With 35 seconds left, Saad and senior Colter Marino left the court to a standing ovation.
“It’s very emotional,” Saad said. “I’ve been playing here for eight years, and I’ve been with the same people for my entire life. There’s kind of that lifelong connection. It makes you feel good.”
The Big Horns kept a 13-point lead by the final buzzer, earning a 62-49 victory. Freshman Ebe Grabow scored six of the Big Horns’ 12 fourth quarter points, one of four contributors to score double digit points in the game.
“It’s cool to be recognized by your classmates and the school,” Marino said. “You’re part of something bigger than yourself.”
In the final seconds, Romney followed his coach’s order to travel. He departed to an appreciative crowd alongside Hammond, his fellow captain.
“I think Max was looking at me a little strange when I was yelling at him to travel,” Malinowski said. “But I think those guys deserve to hear it from the home crowd.”
“I’m never gonna get that ever again, which was pretty cool,” Romney said.
“It was sad,” Hammond said. “But it’s also exciting to see what happens next in life. But it was sad—what are you gonna do?”
On Saturday night, the Big Horn boys finished their season with a road loss to No. 2 West Yellowstone, 57-47.
“We led by two at the half, and trailed by four after [three quarters], but West played like the No. 2 team in the state in the [fourth quarter] and held on to beat us,” Malinowski wrote in an email to EBS. “I was proud of our effort and we are playing our best basketball at the right time of year.”
Senior captains Gus Hammond and Max Romney led the way, scoring 19 and 13 points, respectively. Romney added nine rebounds, earning him the title of all-time leading rebounder for Lone Peak High School boys. With 368, Romney passed Jackson Wade’s record of 362.
Romney also passed Justin McKillop (672) on the all-time scoring list, reaching 679 on Saturday and moving into fourth all-time. Hammond sits at 10th.
The Big Horns earned the No. 6 seed in the district, despite owning the fourth-highest winning percentage. With an overall record of 11-7, Malinowski pointed out that the team has been proud to improve from last year’s 3-16 campaign.
“We’re a better team than we were a month ago. We’re a better team than we were two weeks ago,” Malinowski said, pointing to a recent near win against Townsend, a strong team from Class B. “It’s fun to watch us go out and play with confidence, play with each other—I think we’re peaking at the right time.”
After a competitive boys victory, the Big Horn girls crushed the Panthers.
By halftime, the girls led 40-15. Full-court-pressing and dominating possession, they extended their lead to 55-19 in the third, before second-string players carried the Big Horns to a 65-24 victory. From the sidelines, the four seniors kept up their usual energy in support of the next generation of Big Horn leaders.
“I would say it’s pretty nice to end your career with a win, especially surrounded by your family and friends, and all your teammates,” said senior Maddie Cone. “End of an era, yeah.”
“Yeah, it’s special,” added senior Kate King. “All of us have been able to play in this gym since we were in fourth or fifth grade. So being able to finish in this gym is special for sure.”
“Being able to play, like, us four together and finish strong was so fun,” said senior Josie Wilcynski.
Senior captain Jessie Bough said, “It’s a nice end to our careers here. It’s a good end, probably pretty representative. And I’m excited for the postseason… Going into districts, playing without distractions is what I’m excited for.”
King said it will be important to play hard and “do it for the team” and for coach Bough come district playoff time.
Head coach Loren Bough said the high school has been a 20-year project for him.
“It’s always been my dream to finish out as a Class C team,” said Bough, noting that Lone Peak basketball will move to Class B next year. This is Bough’s final season coaching. “I’ve just fulfilled my dream. Big win, and last game as Class C here in this gym.The Big Horns go for a layup in their rematch against West Yellowstone. PHOTO BY RICH ADDICKS
“It’s not about the wins and losses—and this was a great win. It’s really about the journey and what the kids learn. So we’re trying to [teach] better young women to go out and face the world, and of course get some W’s along the way.”
Coach Bough expressed confidence in their district playoff standing if the girls can stay focused and play their game.
“Super grateful for the support of parents and fans for this program,” he added. “There’s a lot of sports in Montana, and to me it’s a treat to share the Class C basketball experience, which is a very Montana-specific experience, with a group of kids and families that aren’t usually from Montana.”
The Big Horns fell in a close rematch to West Yellowstone, 46-39 on Saturday. They were awarded the fifth seed.
Between the games, all eight Lone Peak High School senior basketball players were honored with their families on center court. Athletic Director John Hannahs read short statements about each player’s favorite memories and future plans:
Ben Saad was recognized first. A “team player” hoping for a divisional tournament run, Saad is a lifelong Big Sky resident and plans to continue his high jump career in college out East, at either Mount Saint Mary’s University or Villanova University, while studying finance.
Kate King has grown personally through the sport of basketball. Her favorite memories included offseason tournaments across the state. She plans to attend college to study nursing.
An avid outdoorsman and rafter of Montana’s “vigorous whitewater,” Gus Hammond started playing basketball in fifth grade. Since then, Hannahs said, “he has become a key component of the Lone Peak boys basketball program.” An EBS columnist and LPHS news anchor, he plans to attend college to study business.
Also “an integral part of the Lone Peak program,” Maddie Cone started on varsity for all four years of high school. She plans on studying pre-law or business in college in the Northeast, where she hopes to continue her volleyball or basketball career.
Colter Marino began playing basketball in high school, and appreciated the coaching and growth fostered by the program for himself and his teammates. He plans on studying computer science or finance in college.
Josie Wilcynski has spent her whole life in Big Sky and is grateful for the memories formed while playing basketball. She plans to pursue business with a focus on finance or marketing in college.
Max Romney’s favorite basketball memory has been this team’s success and sees the team as a brotherhood. He plans to attend college and “wherever he ends up, he hopes to find something he loves doing and make a career out of it,” Hannahs said.
Jessie Bough has spent her whole life in Big Sky. Basketball taught her teamwork, leadership and grit, while bringing her closer to family and friends. Bough plans to play club basketball at Stanford University, where she’ll study international relations and environmental science.
Coach Malinowski wrote a statement for the senior boys.
“Your positive efforts and unselfish attitudes have lifted the program to be prepared for the postseason and the move to Class B next season. We feel privileged to have shared the experience with you so far, and look forward to what lies ahead,” Hannahs read.
Finally, Hannahs passed the microphone to junior teammates Vera Grabow and Astrid McGuire.
Their emotional statement thanked coach Bough for his years of dedication and each player for her unique role on the team.
“We love you and we will miss you,” they concluded through tears.
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