In February of 2004, the Custer County District High School Cowboy basketball team entered the Eastern A Divisional Tournament (held in Miles City that year) as the second seed. They were a senior-laden team that had high hopes of advancing to the state tournament. They were beat by a young Glendive team in the semifinals on a buzzer-beating three-pointer from one of Glendive’s few seniors.
In February of 2014, the Glendive Red Devils entered the Eastern A Divisional Tournament as the second seed. They were a senior-laden team with high hopes for the state tournament. They were beat by a young Miles City team in the semifinals on a buzzer-beating three-pointer from one of Miles City’s few seniors.
Words like fate, karma, divine intervention always tend to pop up when discussing sports. It was fate that LeBron James was drafted by his hometown NBA franchise. It’s karma that the New England Patriots have not won a Super Bowl since being busted spying on opposing teams practices. It was divine intervention when Franco Harris scooped the ball up before it hit the turf in the playoffs in 1972.
In reality, the Cleveland Cavaliers were terrible, so it wasn’t a surprise they were the top pick, it’s really hard to win Super Bowls and sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time.
But those first two paragraphs are kinda freaky.
The 2004 Cowboys were a very good basketball team. Led by five senior starters: Chase Keith, Trapper Hight, Zac Mader, Taylor Harris and Darren Muri, the Cowboys were also deep with juniors Hayes Venable, Isaac Mavis and Chris Setera, and sophomore Kyle Begger, coming off the bench.
They were the number two team in the Eastern A that year behind Sidney and met up with a Glendive team in the semifinals that was thought to be a year or two away from being competitive. They were a young team, led by sophomore Derek Selvig.
In the semifinals, the Cowboys found themselves down by as many as 11 with less than three minutes to play in the third quarter. Three-pointers from Muri and Harris helped cut the lead to 35-31 going into the fourth.
Keith finally tied the game at 37 at the 5:08 mark and for the last five minutes, the lead changed hands four times.
Harris gave the lead back to the Cowboys with a three-pointer with 41 seconds left and the Cowboys forced a turnover. Harris was fouled and went to the line with 14.3 seconds left, where he hit one of two free throws.
Glendive set up a screen for senior Blaine Berg, and he hit the 30-foot jump shot, quieting a packed CCDHS gym.
“It was like a needle to a balloon,” Chase Keith said. “It was just….poof, and gone. All of those years of hard work from when we were little kids, it all vanished. It was deflating.”
And while the Cowboys won their next two games, they were unable to challenge when Sidney beat Glendive 66-34 in the Eastern A championship game.
Dan Stanton was the head coach for the Cowboys that season, which would be his last on the hard court.
“I was awestruck,” Stanton said. “It didn’t sink in until about an hour after the game.”
Stanton became the head football coach later that fall and hung up his basketball whistle. Things have turned out okay for him, leading the Cowboys to two football state championships, but that game 10 years ago still haunts him.
“Oh yeah, I still think about it,” Stanton said. “You live through some of those games and that is definitely one of them. It was a heartbreaker. It was the toughest loss I ever had.”
For KC Keith, father of three Cowboy basketball players Chase, JT and current player Brett, watching that play from the parents section was tough.
“Glendive just jumped up and rushed the court,” KC Keith said. “And we just stared. We all just stared and that was it. All that hard work by the boys, and all the traveling and support from the parents, it was all over.”
Brett Keith, who was in first-grade at the time, doesn’t remember a whole lot from that game.
“I just remember how mad my dad was,” Brett laughed. “That was about it.”
And perhaps the worst thing about the loss was that it was to Glendive, the bitter rivals of the Cowboys.
“It made it a lot worse that it was Glendive,” Chase Keith said. “We had put so much time in together, the five of us seniors, to go out like that. It made things tough. It was rough all the way around, a terrible way to end your senior year.”
And now those feelings are on the Glendive side.
On Friday night at the Metra, the sixth-seeded Cowboys beat the second-seeded Red Devils on a Brac Warren three-pointer as time expired, giving the Cowboys a 44-41 win.
“It was awesome,” Brett Keith said. “I couldn’t believe how crazy it was. And it was way better that it was against Glendive.”
Stanton didn’t make the trip to Billings for the tournament, but saw the highlights and was excited for the current Cowboys.
“I’m happy and proud of the kids,” Stanton said. “They, and the coaches, worked hard. A lot of the kids weren’t around of course back then, but a lot of the fans are the same. So it’s nice to get some redemption. It’s pretty cool.”
For Chase Keith, knowing the shoe is on the other foot helps, a bit.
“I think it helps take the sting away a little,” Chase Keith said. “I wish it didn’t take 10 years, but it does help. Karma.”
“I do feel bad for the kids from Glendive,” KC Keith said. “We know the feeling. It’s tough. Those kids were good. Just like we were good in 2004.”