By Kim Staudinger
The Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds are living a dream this weekend, playing in the Class C State Boys Basketball Tournament in Butte.
Senior Shawn Shambo said his team has been talking about playing in the state tournament all season, but has been dreaming about it for a lot longer.
"It's a dream," Shambo said. "I've been dreaming about it for a long time, since eighth grade. It should be a fun tournament."
It has been seven seasons since a Hays-Lodge Pole team has played in a state tournament. In 1994, the Thunderbirds took fourth place.
With that in mind, Shambo said he doesn't think there's too much pressure on Hays-Lodge Pole to do well. Still, Shambo said, there may be some nerves at first.
"We'll maybe take the first quarter to get the jitters out," he said. "But after the first quarter, we should be OK."
Hays-Lodge Pole (19-6) faces Plenty Coups (16-8) in the first round tonight at 6:30. Shambo said the Warriors like to run and press, a very similar game to the one the Thunderbirds play, which he hopes will be an advantage for his team.
In preparation for the state tournament, practices have been going well.
"They've been good," Shambo said. "Everybody's been excited to go to state. The team's really coming together."
On the same side of the bracket as Hays-Lodge Pole is Brockton (19-5) and Superior (20-6). The top two teams in the state, undefeated Roberts and Manhattan Christian, are on the other side of the bracket along with Scobey (22-2) and Heart Butte (17-7). While Shambo said it is nice to have Roberts and Manhattan Christian on the other side of the bracket, the Thunderbirds aren't too concerned with which teams they'll play.
"We don't really care right now what side of the bracket we're on," he said. "We are just going to take it one game at a time. I guess it helps (being on the other side of the bracket), but we want to play the best in the state so it doesn't matter."
By living their dream, Shambo said, the Thunderbirds have accomplished one goal, but there is still something else they want a state championship.
"It's been a goal all year to make it to state," Shambo said. "But we want a state title. We don't want anything short of a state title."