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Both Bozeman Gallatin basketball programs made history at divisional tournament, now look ahead to state

Gallatin Boys basketball
Gallatin Girls basketball
Posted at 11:09 AM, Mar 06, 2024

BOZEMAN — Both Bozeman Gallatin basketball programs made history at the Eastern AA divisional basketball tournaments last Saturday.

For the first time in each of their program histories, they made the championship game and secured the No. 2 seeds for their state tournaments.

"We actually departed Bozeman on the same bus this past Thursday, and we came back on the same bus," Raptors boys basketball coach Michael Claxton said. "You know, so I think we went into these tournaments with similar mindsets."

The outlook both teams brought into this past weekend was that they’re here to stay.

Gallatin opened its doors four years ago, and since then the basketball teams have worked to solidify themselves as programs and earn the respect that comes with the runs they made.

"That’s what I think I love most about this team," Raptors girls basketball coach Taylor Cummings said. "We weren’t satisfied with just being there. We wanted more, and we’re going to continue to want more. So that’s the only way you get those ‘firsts,’ is if you have that mindset."

Throughout the regular season, girls and boys teams are normally flipped home and away on game days, so to share the run at the tournament together was special.

"It was really fun," Raptors girls basketball senior Karsen Breeding said. "Them coming to both of our games, and us going to their games was super fun. It’s just a really great mentality to have. Our school is really awesome, and it’s been really great to see the culture grow. Both for the girls and the boys."

Claxton has seen his program grow immensely in Class AA since he became head coach of a brand-new program four years ago.

"It’s been night and day compared to when we first started," he explained. "You know, first of all, without a senior class, we lacked the experience, the physical strength that a lot of the programs had in our first year. But, you know, we step by step closed that gap in terms of the size and strength and experience."

This season both teams have stood on integrity and togetherness — something key as they head to the state tournament.

"'We.' That’s kind of been our standpoint the past few weeks that Claxton came up with, and so during our breaks and before games, that’s kind of what we’ve been sticking with," Raptors boys basketball senior Zad Rodarte said.

This senior class is the first to spend the entirety of their high school careers as Raptors, so this final runs means a lot to them.

"It means a lot," Rodarte said with a smile. "It being the last year, it’s going to be pretty emotional, but me and the other three seniors are going to give it all we got and leave it on the floor, and hopefully leave something to remember afterwards."

The Gallatin boys will take on Butte at 12 p.m on Thursday in the first round of the state tournament in Missoula. The Gallatin girls play Missoula Sentinel at 3:30 p.m.