Here’s a quick look at what the girls of Missoula Sentinel’s class of 2014 have done in four years on the basketball court:
Four straight State AA title game appearances
Three straight State AA championships
A four-year combined record of 83-10
So is it safe to call this group the greatest girls’ basketball class in Sentinel history?
“Oh for sure – by far,” said Spartans coach Karen Deden, a Sentinel alum as well. “We’ve been blessed with a group of kids that have really pushed it to a new level – and it kind of started with Olivia. Those kids have worked hard and they play year-round since they got here and vastly improved. They’re a team and they play well together.”
Senior guard/forward/superstar Olivia Roberts led the Spartans to a 48-30 beat down of Billings West on Saturday to win the third of those three state championships. Roberts led all players with 18 points and nine rebounds.
The future 5-foot-11 Wyoming Cowgirl was around for most all those 80-plus wins since her freshman year as the only frosh to see major varsity minutes in the 2010-11 season.
But soon her fellow classmates at Sentinel High School joined her on the court. Five other varsity seniors will graduate with Roberts this spring.
They include 6-1 Sam Harper and 5-10 Emily Beach, a pair of heightened starters defending the key for the Spartans this year; 5-8 guard Maddie Keast, a Lady Griz signee and threat from anywhere on the court; 5-9 forward/post Jess Henning, a reserve who ensures Sentinel won’t drop its defensive intensity when starters check out for a rest; and 5-0 guard Brittani Wulf, the speediest and smallest Spartan on the roster.
Keast has only experienced the last two Sentinel seasons – albeit the most successful ones – though she missed most of Saturday’s title game with an ankle injury.
She transferred from Loyola Sacred Heart before her junior season.
The group weathered the storm of expectations again this year with another charge through the state bracket.
“I said to the kids, to be proud of where you’re at. I mean think of the whole season playing with a target on your back and to persevere through that,” Deden added. “Because every time somebody plays us, they have absolutely nothing to lose. They can go out there and play out of their heads, because what’s the worst that’s going to happen? They’re going to lose.”
On the eve of her fourth state championship appearance in as many seasons, one of Sentinel’s all-time great athletes struggled to put the grandeur of her prep career into words. Roberts’ awe at her past path couldn’t keep her from focusing on the immediate future, though.
“I can’t believe it. It’s so weird to think that I’ve been to the state championship every single year,” Roberts said after her Spartans outlasted Kalispell Glacier in Friday’s semifinal. “I’m so blessed to have such a great coach and such great teammates.
“But all I’m thinking about is I just want another state championship. I want a three-peat and I want to get it done.”
Consider that job very well done, Lady Spartans.