The Darby High School Lady Tiger Basketball team is ranked third in the conference and has a .500 record — having won eight games and lost eight games.
Coach Caroline Ehmann said that the Tigers are tied with Clark Fork (a co-op between Superior and Alberton) and play later this week will determine where the school is ranked for seeding in the district tournament. Two teams from the district tournament will move forward to divisionals.
Ehmann said the season has been “going well.”
“We have a lot of freshmen on the team so we’re pretty young,” Ehmann said. “This has been a good season and it has gone by fast.”
The Lady Tiger seniors are Gracie Lang, Kimber Schlapman, Annie Rennaker and Lyxie Buhler.
Challenges this year include the gap that last year’s seniors left.
“They were really good shooters, averaging 20 points per game, so to lose them we’ve been struggling from shooting,” Ehmann said. “But I feel like we are getting better every time.”
Ehmann said the biggest success has been watching her team improve this season.
“The younger girls are really exciting and it is fun to see their improvement, they are enjoying it,” Ehmann said. “I have a new assistant coach, Heather Berry. JP (McCrossin) and I have coached for years.”
Senior Gracie Lang is co-valedictorian and captain of the basketball team, cross country team and track team. She has lettered in three sports every year, was All-State every year for cross country and was state champion in cross country her freshman year.
Her sophomore year she ran the cross country state meet with a head cold and placed second, her junior year she had strep throat and tonsillitis and placed third.
“Basically, I’ve never been fully healthy for a state meet, it is probably due to stress and the pressure I put on myself,” Lang said. “This past year I ended up getting 10th which was disappointing but I was okay with it, that’s how it goes.”
Running is her favorite activity. She runs six days a week in summer and during cross country, takes a break with basketball then goes back to running for track.
“Definitely running is my big sport but I do love the break in between with basketball, a team sport,” Lang said. “It is not all running, you have to work on different skills too. It is a big transition because I have to think about being on a team.”
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As captain she focuses on making sure her teammates are upbeat, doing their best and working together. She said she loves athletic competition and being in sports.
“I just really love the feeling,” she said. “I’m a really competitive person and I love how it feels when I am playing good, make a shot or run a good time. Running is something I can do forever if I keep my body well-maintained and it is good for you. Basketball is fun to have girls around you as a team, another kind of family.”
Lang said the season has not been easy but that it has been good.
“We did lose some of our best girls last year and they were really good shooters,” she said. “Now as seniors we had to really step into their roles. That has put a lot of pressure on some of the starters. But we have stepped into their roles, have taken good shots and have played some really good games.”
Lang said she is grateful to Coach Ehmann and her co-captain Kimber Schlapman.
“She is a great captain,” Lang said. “She is super upbeat, aggressive and really helps out other girls. We have a great team this year, we work well together and it is super fun.”
On a side note, Lang completed her first half-marathon in Missoula last summer.
“It was the most fun I had running because there was no pressure on me to do well,” Lang said. “All I had to do was finish. I’ll do it again this summer. I had never run that many files in a race and it was a great experience.”
Kimber Schlapman said she has enjoyed being co-captain with Lang.
“I think everything is going great,” she said. “It is Gracie’s and my last year and we’ve been playing together for five years. We are trying to make the most of it and have fun.”
Schlapman said she does defense best and has picked some rebounds but is known for making steals.
Coach Ehmann said it has been a good season for the Darby girls’ basketball team.
“It’s exciting coming down to the weekend to see how we do in districts,” Ehmann said. “Our goal is always to go to divisionals. The ultimate goal is to go to state, but I know there are a lot of Class C teams. You have to have tall girls and very good shooters to make it to state.”
Watch the Darby Lady Tigers basketball team play their final home game at senior night Feb. 14. The JV Girls game begins at 4 p.m., Senior Night activities begin at 5:15 p.m., the Varsity team plays around 5:30 p.m. and the Darby Boys’ Basketball team plays at 7 p.m. (times are approximate.)
“We will play Seeley who is ranked first,” Lang said. “We’re ranked third. It will be a tough game but I think we’ll be pumped up and ready. It is a little weird because it will be my senior night and I feel like I was just at my sister’s senior night last year, but that was four years ago. This is a crazy feeling.”
The Lady Tigers will play at the district tournament Feb. 19–21, they are hoping for divisional tournament action, Feb. 27-29, and the State Class C Girls’ Basketball Tournament will be at the University of Montana, March 12 – 14.