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Libby wins first state title in 38 years

| March 2, 2004 11:00 PM

By Paul Boring, Western News Reporter

Libby High School had waited 38 years for another boys basketball state championship, until the Loggers battled in Belgrade over the weekend and brought back the long-awaited piece of metal.

³Thirty eight years is a long time between state championships,² said Coach Wally Winslow.

It is unlikely, Winslow said, that the players on this year¹s historic team will fully grasp the importance of the accolade they earned.

³Those names that are on the championship trophy from 1966, people in our community still know those names, they still know those people,² he said. ³Our kids don¹t understand yet how they will be regarded in the future.²

The caliber of the Loggers on and off the court is a reflection on the caliber of the community, the coach said.

³The fact that our kids are good representatives of our community makes a huge difference,² he said. ³We have good people in our community and good kids on our team. They mirror each other in that way.²

The last time Libby won a boys basketball state championship, the town was in a markedly different economic situation, Winslow said.

³In 1966 when we won the state championship, our community was booming,² he said. ³The mill was going, the dam was going, logging was going crazy. In our tournament games, we¹d get behind and we¹d fight back. We never gave up. We had the focus and we kept going after what we knew was right. That¹s like our community. We¹ve been dealt some blows economically and our people are continuing to fight and fight.

³Good things happened to our basketball team because we wouldn¹t quit. The same will happen to the town of Libby. There are definite connections between our team and the community.²

Now in his sixth year as head coach and in his twelfth year in the basketball program, Winslow said the privilege of working with his coaching staff and the players has been wonderful.

³I¹m privileged to be surrounded by those types of kids,² he said. ³It¹s great to be associated with them and it¹s been so positive for us. It¹s been a humbling experience for me and for all our coaches. You don¹t realize how many people pay attention to what you do, and to what the kids do.²

The fan support throughout the regular season and through the postseason tournaments created a special atmosphere for the players and the community. A strong contingent of ex-Libby players present at the championship game in Belgrade added to the experience for Winslow.

³It was great to see those kids there and talk to them after the game,² he said.

The present and past success of both basketball programs at the high school can be largely attributed to the coaches, many of who have been involved for years.

³Consistency and continuity in coaching are very important,² Winslow said. ³I think the basketball programs have fed off each other with the coaches and the players. We help each other out and we talk to each other.²