Friday, May 24, 2024

Memories abound for 1993 Polson Basketball Teams

by Brandon Hansen & Leader Archives
| January 19, 2023 12:00 AM

Saturday's Ronan-Polson basketball games were a fun night for Pirate athletics as the home teams both picked up victories. The honoring of two historic teams in the Polson basketball program made it even more special.

Both the Polson 1993-94 State A Boys Basketball Champions and the Polson 1993 State A Girls Basketball 2nd Place team were honored.

In attendance from the State A Boys Basketball Team was Todd Goode, Brad Walter, Chad Smith, Kris McKethen, Neal Smith, Jarod Tait, Jamie Vies, Geoff Ramsey, Asst. Coach Steve Nelson, Asst. Coach Bruce Thomas and Head Coach Joe Mckethen

In attendance for the 2nd Place State A Girls Basketball team was Head Coach Bruce Thomas, Heather Knutson, Jaime Richards, Sarah Hartsoch, Tosha Doornek, Brooke Doepke, Julie Stene, Jeannette Grey, Sheri Gunlock, Sara Gunderson, Nicole Dubuque, manager Tisha Matt, Asst. Coach Steve Nelson and Asst. Coach Sue Moore.


The 1993-94 State A Boys Basketball Championship team is something out of a movie. Going into the tournament, they had received little praise. They defeated Central A champion Havre 66-59 and then downed Western A foe Whitefish 54-52.

Then came the championship game against Belgrade. Polson had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, but the Pirates' free-throw shooting caught a cold breeze, and the Panthers stormed back. A tied 53-53 score after four sent the game to overtime in the Butte Civic Center, where Jarod Tait hit two free throws, and Neil Smith stole a late pass to win the game.

The celebration by Polson fans was such that the Pirates Activities Director Dennis Jones thought they might just have to stay there overnight.

"I thought in the Civic Center that we'd never get them out of there," Jones said.

Fans put on a small rally in a restaurant after the game, and the team had an escort from Butte to Polson where the real parade started.

"The closer we got to Polson, the quieter it got on the bus," head coach Joe McKethen said. Congratulations on business marquees awaited them, along with a huge purple-and-gold balloon arch across Main Street. "They (the kids) noticed every little thing."

"That's the best thing I've ever seen in my life in Polson," Neal Smith said.

Players, coaches, and cheerleaders rode firetrucks through the chilly streets for half an hour before alighting at the old middle school gym - their home court - for a pep rally.

"If the kids had known this was going to happen, we wouldn't have missed all those free throws last night," McKethen quipped to an estimated 1,000 fans in the gym.


The Polson Girls Basketball Team in 1993 played back when the girls' basketball season was in the spring. The Lady Pirates traveled to Billings for the State A Tournament, which saw them pick up a 49-32 win over Sidney and then a 50-46 victory over Havre.

"It was a great experience for the girls," coach Bruce Thomas told the Leader at the time.

In the championship game, Polson fell to favored Colstrip 53-48, and as Thomas put it "the clock just ran out." Sherri Gunlock scored 44 total points in the tournament for the Lady Pirates and, according to Thomas, was a dominating player in Billings.

Against Colstrip, Polson led in the first half, but the Fillies came alive in the third when Leader writer Dixie Miller said Colstrip hit on everything they threw at the basket. Polson trailed 41-34 with 7:50 left in the game and battled back. With six seconds left, a three-pointer that would have tied the game came up empty.

Before the 1993 season, Polson had won only one game at state and that was a loser-out contest. For many, this state run opened some eyes about basketball in Polson.

"I was really pleased with the way our girls played," Thomas said.


Polson Lady Pirates 1993 State A Basketball 2nd Place: Head Coach Bruce Thomas, Heather Knutson, Jaime Richards, Sarah Hartsoch, Tosha Doornek, Brooke Doepke, Julie Stene, Jeannette Grey, Sheri Gunlock, Sara Gunderson, Nicole Dubuque, mgr. Tisha Matt, Asst. Coach Steve Nelson, and Asst. Coach Sue Moore. (Bob Gunderson Photo)