The legend of Kellie Cole

Winter has not quite left us – just look outside.

So looking back at the winter sports season won’t seem like such a stretch.

Most people will remember how Bozeman High senior Kellie Cole carried her team to the State AA championship two weeks ago.

How she was the MVP of the tournament; and that she scored 25 points in just over 16 minutes in the semifinals against Butte. (Butte coach Jeff Arntson came up with the line of the tournament when he said: “We got Kellie Cole-ed tonight).’

But stats can’t measure how she lifted the team during the final half of the state title game against Great Falls-C.M. Russell.

Cole made two key baskets – one to tie the game, one to put her team ahead for good – in the final three minutes to crown Bozeman the champions. And she did it with a broken wrist.

Bozeman’s nine point first-half lead had evaporated – CMR actually took a brief 31-29 lead early in the fourth quarter – by the time Cole went to work.

She had injured the wrist in the second quarter and had it heavily taped when the teams came out for the third. With CMR enjoying all the momentum, Cole coolly – is there any other way for this Griz-bound guard – sank two jumpers to put the Hawks back into the lead.

Bum wrist and all.

Granted, Cole broke a bone in her left wrist and shoots with her right. But as anyone knows, it takes two hands to shoot a basketball.

Fortunately, it only takes one to throw a discus, and Cole, who is also nursing a back injury, will be one of John Griffith’s top throwers during the upcoming track and field season, which begins either on April 6 or whenever it stops snowing.

Cole was second in the state discus a year ago.

Bozeman’s hoop team will no doubt miss Cole. And when next winter rolls around (I’ll refrain about making a joke about that … this time), it will be the first one without a Cole either on the court or roaming the sidelines in nearly 25 years.

But the Hawks should still be a favorite to be playing on Saturday night next March 12 when the AA tourney comes to Butte.

Kylie Gagnon and Cole were the only seniors on this year’s team. And with a strong junior class (next year) that has plenty of playoff experience, the good times should continue.

Most teams need a top scorer (like Cole) to lead them, especially when the rest of the squad has gone cold. Who will that be next year? Hard to say. Shanae Gilham can do so many things that she doesn’t need to be a big scorer in order to be effective.

Rosie Nickelson showed signs of being a 3-point threat and Lexi Dawkins is tough in the post, but Bozeman may not need big scoring numbers next year to be successful.

Just take Butte for example. Lexie Nelson was by far the leading scorer in AA this season, but that couldn’t get the Bulldogs past the semis – and Bozeman.

Enter next year’s senior class.

Bozeman will have Lindsey Manning and Kayla Hefty returning. The pair helped BHS keep opponents under 40 points on average during the regular season this year and under 35 for the playoffs.

Jenna Banks and Taylor Parker are expected back as well.

As for which team will give the Hawks the most competition, that remains to be seen.

CMR has leading scorer Haley Vining coming back, but Jordan Bagley, Kate Striepe and Katy Klick – who combined for 27 ppg – are graduating.

Butte, of course, is losing Nelson. Missoula Big Sky will have Elleson Tinkle, but is losing the bulk of its scoring. Missoula Hellgate will be without the departing Bryn Hasquet. That means the top three scorers in the state – Nelson, Cole and Hasquet – will be gone next year.

Next winter is a ways off (again, I’ll hold back). But it will be interesting to see how the Hawks fare on what could be another run of championships. And the same goes for the Cole-Nelson combo at the University of Montana.

Once that wrist heals, anyway.


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