The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Ten years since we have been to state basketball


March 8, 2023

They had two weeks to rest, heal and prepare. I wanted to ask the Pioneer team if they were ready for state. Kody Strutz said, "Yes, Ma'am! After playing eight games in two weeks, I've been working on getting my health back to where it needs to be. He is "Getting locked in mentally in the last weeks in practice." Lustre doesn't scare him. Kody believes being from 9C will help them.

Wylee Snapp said, "Yes, of course! The way we played at divisionals, I know we can get state too. I think it was harder to get out of divisionals than it will be at state."

I asked Lane Demontiney first how is your hand (it's broken), and he said, "UM"! Are you ready? "Yes, for sure! It's easy to be ready when you have been through it once. Our division is the toughest district in the state. It's pretty easy when the team is super athletic."

Rusty Gasvoda said, "I'm really excited. It's going to be cool. In all my years, we haven't gone to state. I think the last time was 2010." Big Sandy also won in 1963 when we were a Class B school. We were in the championship games in 2004 and 2007 but lost. The last time we were at boys' state basketball was in 2013.

I asked Cooper Taylor how high was his vertical jump. He has no idea what vertical jump is. However, he jumps exceptionally well. He was about to get his hair cut before state. "It's kind of crazy, but I ain't buzzing it." He said, "This week, we've had some good practice and are ready to roll."

Jake Darlington responded, "Ya! I think so. I'm excited!" I asked him if he thought they would return next year because Jake is a Junior. He said they wanted to get back to state next year. "I think we'll play for the championship again."

Coach Rhett said, "We can play with anyone there. We have a great chance to make some noise for sure. I personally think the eastern division isn't anywhere near as tough as our division that we just came out of. A two-week break will get us in a great spot. Get everyone healthy. Get everyone ready to go if we are all playing as a team and working hard. It's hard to compare games. Some were the best games we have had. We were a little bit tired and lazy in the divisional championship." I asked him how it feels to be a first-time head coach. "I give a lot of credit to these boys. I've been given a pretty talented, good group of boys. I'm not going to going to take a lot of credit; these boys have worked their tails off all season." He hopes people will come down to Billings and support the team.

Coach Ryne said, "we had a little bit of a letdown during districts, but we had an opportunity to talk about that. I am really proud of the way they played at divisionals. They are a great bunch. We are becoming more of a team, more of a family. I am excited for the weekend. We beat number two in the state, and if we end up playing the number one-rated team in the state, bring them on! I'm excited; you know that." I asked about does it feel the same as when he played. And he said, "It was more special. I recognize the work they have put in in the off-season. It's special !"

Joe Jurenka said, "There is no question. They have always had talent. We've worked through trials. We've worked real hard on building a team. We went to the divisional and played their best basketball they had ever played. The two teams they beat this year were the two teams that beat us by 30 points. At Divisionals, they played twice as well on Friday night as they did Thursday and played their ultimate game against Winifred. When they work together, we are undefeatable. It's harder to make the state tournament than to play at state. I am so proud of these boys. Everything they have achieved to this point, they did. They decided to play like a team. They decided to pick up the intensity. You can quote me on this. We aren't going to play in Billings. We are going to win. Pretty exciting. Can't wait!"

It sounds like they are ready to bring home some hardware.


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