Emma Flach, seen here in a 2017-18 season game, returns to the basketball court this year as a junior. She’s a player to watch according to her coach Ausha Cole.  PHOTO BY RICH ADDICKS PHOTOGRAPHYCole March (#3) and Isaac Gilmore (#25) turned heads during last year’s Big Horn varsity basketball season. Their coach Brian Van Eps has high hopes for the players as they return to the court this season. PHOTO BY RICH ADDICKS PHOTOGRAPHY

Bouncing back

Big Horns hit the court for 2018-19 varsity season
Box scores from the Dec. 1 matchup against Harrison Boys: Lone Peak 7 11 13 15 46 Harrison / WC 8 8 15 14 45 Lone Peak leading scorers: Frankie Starz 18, Kegan Babick 14, Kolya Bough 8, Cole March 3, Nolan Schumacher 2, Isaac Gilmore 1. Girls: Lone Peak 14 5 10 11 40 Harrison / WC 8 5 9 14 37 Lone Peak leading scorers: Solae Swenson 15, Brooke Botha 12, Emma Flach 6, Carly Wilson and Sarah Wilson 3, Dani Cristanado 1.

Varsity boys bag a pre-season win

The boys of the varsity Big Horn basketball team ended their season last year with a bit of a heartbreak - falling to their regional rivals the West Yellowstone Wolverines 60-77 in the district tournament. As head coach Brian Van Eps put it, “It was a tough pill to swallow, a hard loss,” especially given the Big Horns had beat the Wolverines during regular season play.

Coach Van Eps said that loss left the team feeling like they didn’t meet their standards, leaving the players with a bitter taste in their mouths. But with a new season upon them, the first district game slated for Dec. 14 at White Sulfur Springs, the team is ready to get things rolling again.

The Big Horn boys had their first matchup, a non-district game on the road against Harrison on Saturday, Dec. 1. While it didn’t count towards their season record, the boys secured a big “W.”

“It was great, we won, all right!” Coach Van Epps cheered, “But by the slimmest of margins, just one point.” Most of the game the boys were ahead of their opponent by four to six points, but the coach said there was one Harrison player, admittedly a great athlete, that was giving the Big Horns matchup problems.

Van Eps noted that last year the boys had been playing a lot of zone coverage versus man-to-man, so that’s something they practiced at this pre-season game, and will be working on moving forward. “It was challenging, but that was on purpose,” he said, “It was a bit of practice. And In the end, it was fun to win.”

Some figured the game would go into OT, but the nail-biter of a win was sealed by a foul resulting in a successful two-point free throw with just 10 seconds to go made by junior Frankie Starz, and classmate Isaac Gilmore also came through in a clutch with an earlier free throw that gave the team the margin to win the game, 46-45.

Other players to watch this season, said Van Eps, include senior captains Kolya Bough and Cole March, as well as Kegan Babick who relocated to Big Sky earlier this year from California, excelling on the football field. “He had a great showing on Saturday,” said his coach, “He’s our happy surprise this year.”

Lady Big Horns log pre-season win

Similar to the varsity boys head coach’s reaction to the question, “How’d Saturday go?” Lone Peak Big Horn Varsity Girls’ Coach Ausha Cole responded, “Well, we won.” Theirs was also a close one, closing out the match 40-37.

It was a pre-season game, and as such, one useful for learning and reflection. “It wasn’t the prettiest win we could have had,” said Coach Cole, who is managing a team split with five returners and five newcomers. “We were rushed with our decisions. And we are still learning team chemistry, how to get everyone to blend in.”

Criticisms aside, Cole said she’s looking forward to one more preseason game before the real match-ups begin in earnest.

Last season was a successful one for the Big Horn varsity girls b-ballers, who made it second in conference, ultimately losing in the first two games of divisionals. “It was a strong performance, but we couldn’t pull off a win,” she said, “It was a strong end of season.”

The end of the 2017-18 season was also a farewell to seniors KP Hoffman and Jayleen Cole, who Coach Cole noted accounted for about 80 percent of the teams scoring. So this season could be one of rebuilding.

This year’s team still has its fair share of standout players, said Cole, who mentioned the strong shots coming from sophomore Ivy Hicks, and the skills of junior Emma Flach who sets up situations to create her own shots. Cole also commended freshman Carly Wilson who took on a leadership role on Saturday when her teammate and captain  Flach was fouled out. “Carly did an excellent job stepping in,” said Cole.

Other players of note include senior Brooke Botha, whose strength and height will come in handy defensively, as well as senior and team captain Solae Swenson who’s entering her fourth year of high school basketball.

“I think if we can all work hard, we’ll have a great season,” said Coach Cole.

The Big Horns have one more pre-season game, taking place this Saturday at Harrison versus Roberts, before regular season begins on Dec. 14 on the road against White Sulfur Springs. Looking to catch a home game? The first of the season will be Dec. 20 against Shields Valley with JV girls playing at 2:30 p.m., JV boys at 4 p.m., and varsity girls hitting the court at 5:30 p.m. and boys at 7 p.m.

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