MISSOULA, Mont. - "I love it. I mean I love these girls, I love the game, I love the new coach... I mean everything. We're all excited, we're all ready to go, ready to change our program."
Those were the words of sophomore guard Darby Henthorn before the season had even started for her Hellgate basketball team. And it looks like changes are definitely on the way. Last Friday night in Missoula, the Knights took down Butte for their first victory over a class AA team in almost four years.
"It was awesome," said junior Kara Hogan. "It was the first win that I've pretty much had at Hellgate so it was really cool. We worked together as a team for the first time in a while so that was really awesome."
"They made plays down the stretch and I was just really proud of them," said head coach Gary McLaughlin. "They're great kids and I was excited for them to get a little feel-good."
To get the win against Butte was no small task. The Lady Bulldogs advanced to the state semifinals just last season and they implement an exhausting full court press that required impressive stamina and focus by Hellgate.
"We just asked our guards to really see the floor and I thought they saw the floor and got the ball in the right positions and we attacked that press and good things happened," said McLaughlin.
"We definitely prepared a lot the week before leading up to the game," explained junior Lexi Duce. "We watched film on them, we knew what they were going to do and stuff so we were just way more prepared and it was way better."
The team was ecstatic to get the taste of victory, the only person who could surpass their excitement? Well that would be their 1st year head coach Gary McLaughlin.
"He came in and he yelled that he was so proud of us," said Hogan.
"He came in screaming into our room and it was just really good," added Duce. "Everyone was super excited and everyone was clapping."
"It was a great moment, it really was," said McLaughlin. "I just told the kids that I was proud of them. They competed hard and they earned everything that they got Friday night."
The team is thankful for the praise and recognition that they've received this week... but they also know they've earned this feeling.
"Yeah we definitely wanted to get a AA win because it hasn't happened in so long and that was always, for open gyms and stuff, what we were thinking about," said Duce.
"It's just good to prove people wrong when you're always hearing about Hellgate girls basketball..." said Hogan. "But it's really cool to be a part of the program that changed it."
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