Improving their skills, working together as a team

SEELEY LAKE – While an after-school basketball game at Seeley Lake Elementary typically has the stands packed, this season only four spectators per player were allowed due to COVID restrictions. However, that did not deter the SLE Eagles from improving their game and having fun this season.

Despite the Copper League postponing the start of boys basketball until after the New Year, the Eagles have played several games since starting their season the end of October. Head Coach Brett Haines has lined up games with teams from the surrounding area and he said he is very pleased with the teams' progress.

At the start of the season, Haines said SLE Superintendent Josh Gibbs worked hard to get a plan that was approved by Missoula County. Once that was in place, he got to work filling the schedule. He was concerned if they waited for the Copper League they wouldn't play at all.

Despite at one point having more cancellations than games on the schedule, Haines recently added six more games and hopes to get a few more before the season wraps up.

"We started, we've been playing basketball and we haven't had any major issues with anything," Haines said. "I'm just happy these kids can play."

This year Haines said they should have had around 20 players come out for the boys basketball team. However due to poor grades and players being pulled due to COVID concerns, they have been down to as low as nine on the fifth and sixth grade B team, and eight on the seventh and eighth grade A team.

The first game of the season, the Eagles fell to Lincoln by around 30 points. However, the Eagles beat Drummond winning by nearly 30 points on their home court Dec. 9 after Drummond beat Lincoln.

"To go from getting beat by 15 points by [Drummond the first game they played them] to beating them by that much, my team is just playing much better. We shot better tonight, we had better ball movement, we were looking for each other and are a pretty unselfish team," said Haines who wished he could play Lincoln again but due to COVID concerns Lincoln ended their season. "I've had some kids that are really coming along and the whole team is improving their game."

The Eagles have seen some losses but Haines attributes that partially to losing key players on the A team.

"Our team is not quite what it could be," said Haines. "We are missing two kids, one starts and the other is the first kid off the bench."

Despite being two players down on the A team, the Eagles came out ready to fight on Wednesday after losing to Charlo by only a couple of points the day before. The Eagles were quick to put points on the board, were 20 points ahead at the half and continued to add distance. The Eagles won 53-25.

"These kids are just stepping up and playing. That was a huge win for us," said Haines explaining the loss to Charlo was because they couldn't shoot. "Tonight we did that. We made some of those little rebound shots and we had some fast break layup shots. There was a big difference in the two games. I think Drummond is as good as Charlo."

Haines said his eighth graders have really stepped it up since last season and continue to improve over the season.

While eighth-grader Seth Dunster is not the tallest player on the court, Haines said he moves well, hustles and works hard. Haines added that Dunster was a huge asset to the Eagles against Drummond with his rebounding and scoring.

Haines said guard Tyler Haines is quick, can move and dribble. He also made several break-away layups in the game against Drummond.

Haines said eighth-grader Dylan Wilkinson has really stepped up this year. He added the team was glad to have him back in the game against Drummond after he missed the Charlo game Dec. 8.

And finally, eighth grader Aiden Posthumus has really impressed Haines with how much he has improved since last year. Haines said he is playing tough and mixing it up with the other teams.

Haines said seventh-graders Quinlan McClure, Mason Dalrymple, Kelton Dunster and Kolten Zurmulen have come a long way this season and have really stepped it up.

"We just aren't very big but we are getting scrappier. We are getting after people and fighting for the ball, hustling and playing tough out there," said Haines. "I'm really happy with that."

Bradley Miller coached the fifth and sixth grade B team.

"Every game you can see steady improvement. It's fun to watch," said Miller. "When I have everyone, we have a really good squad."

Miller said the kids that have come out do a great job of listening, learning and having fun. Offense came easy for the team. They worked on passing, keeping their eyes up while dribbling and are now consistently running a few plays.

Defense has been more of a challenge. Miller said they have been working hard on watching the basketball while keeping track of their man at the same time.

"They tend to want to follow their guys around like a puppy dog," said Miller. "They are definitely starting to get it and it is showing."

Miller said he can substitute all five players on the floor and not lose any skill. That allows him to get every player in the game and keep everyone fresh.

"It is a lot of fun. They are a good group," said Miller.

The Eagles are hoping for a few more games before the season wraps up since there are no tournaments this year. Haines added he is already scheduling girls games after the New Year. However, he said they are just taking everything one week at a time right now.

"We are doing everything we can for these kids to play," Haines said. "We will keep continuing to do that and take what we can get for games."


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