This season is going to look a bit different for the Columbus girls basketball team. The Cougars are replacing their top three scorers from last year’s team that finished second at the State B tournament.
“There’s obviously, physically, some things that they did that we can’t replace yet or now. But luckily the leadership they brought to us is spilling over into our seniors and it’s not so much about replacing but building on what they learned from those girls," Columbus head coach Jeromey Burke said. "We have a good group of seniors that have kind of led our practices and they’re doing a good job of picking up where we left off and just trying to build something again this year.
The Cougars are going to jump into a meat-grinder of a schedule early on. Burke and his girls will have a good idea where they need to be come tournament time after facing some of the area’s best teams before Christmas vacation.
“We play good teams in the summer, whether its Belt or Havre, we play a lot of good teams. What we learned this summer is that we can compete with any of them, and if we’re not playing well we can get our butt kicked by any of them," Burke said. "They know that we’re going to play some good teams, Boulder, Big Timber, Laurel. They’re just going to be tough teams to play. Luckily we have the type of group that I think will view that challenge and regardless of how it happens view it as a positive. We have to play good teams to get better.”
Columbus will likely trot out one of the smaller lineups in Class B this season, as the Cougars have just one girl standing taller than 5-foot-6. Columbus isn’t going to overwhelm teams with size this year, but Burke’s squad will beat you in other ways.
“We’ve talked about not only knowing what you’re good at but knowing what you’re teammates are good at and making sure you play in a way that highlights your strengths and, more importantly, their strengths," said Burke. "I think when we’re good, I think that that’s one thing that we really shine at, is knowing what everybody wants to do and knowing what we want to do as a team and being able to do that. I think our strengths are going to be our intelligence and the fact that we get along so well.”
The Cougars will open their season on Dec. 10 in Red Lodge at the Wooden Memorial Tipoff Tournament.