With about 4 1/2 minutes ticked off the clock in the first quarter of Missoula Big Sky’s home opener with Butte High on Thursday, Eagles center Colin Bingham stepped to the free-throw line for a pair of charity shots.
His team already owned a 14-2 lead, and as Bingham hit his free throw to run the Bulldogs’ deficit to 13 early points, Butte coach Terry Hauser called his first time out of the boys’ basketball game.
That’s when the Big Sky bench exploded.
Players who’d had nothing yet to do with the early outburst of Eagle scoring jumped into the air, whipped their towels around their heads and echoed triumphant screams off the walls of Big Sky’s gym. They met their teammates a dozen feet from the bench as the starters headed court side during the break.
“We feed off them,” Big Sky starting guard Brad Wakai said. “You look at the pros, you look at college (basketball) and their bench is always in to it. That’s what Coach (Bryan) Ferriter wants us to do. He shows us a picture and says, ‘Look like this.’ ”
It’s all part of building that coveted team unity — on and off the floor.
And how perfect that the Eagles got to employ the tactic right away in their 63-38 beating of Butte.
“We actually rehearse that and practice that,” said Ferriter, the team’s head coach. “You may laugh at that, but we talked about it.
“We put a bunch of clips together of adults — who they idolize — doing that. We showed them that you’re not immature, not someone who’s going to be teased (for showing that emotion). Someone who’s making $80 million a year to play the game is going bananas on the sideline, too.”
The excitement rubs off on the players in the game, Ferriter said, but it does an even better job of keeping the rest of the team — the players coming off the bench — from cooling off.
“Then when we do bring you in, you’re somehow emotionally connected to the game so you don’t come in cold,” Ferriter said. “You’re there. Your heart is beating in unison with the other guys that are out there.”
And it’s beating very loudly. Just ask anyone who witnessed the cacophony Thursday evening at Big Sky High School.