BOZEMAN — For the first time in 45 years, there will be no Montana-Wyoming All-Star Basketball Series this summer.
The boys and girls games, scheduled for June 12-13 in Billings and Sheridan, have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's super disappointing," said Rocky Erickson, president of the Midland Roundtable in Billings, which puts on the series. "I really, really wanted to have the games. But we're stuck and there's nothing else we can do."
Erickson, who said he attended the first game 45 years ago in Billings as a Wolf Point High school freshman, said the Midland Roundtable board considered playing the games and showing them to fans via the Internet. But too many factors out of their control forced the cancellation, he added.
"I would've loved to see (Hardin's) Famous Lefthand and (Missoula Hellgate's) Rollie Worster on the same team," Erickson said. "Just think of the crowds we could've had with Famous and Marie Five from Hardin and the Billings kids. It would've been so much fun to watch these kids play again, especially with what happened at the state tournaments. It would've been fantastic."
Montana's state tournaments were canceled March 13 after the semifinal games. Wyoming's 3A/4A tournaments, scheduled for the same weekend in Casper, were canceled before they began; champions were crowned in 2A and 1A the previous week, also in Casper.
“I am saddened by the need to cancel the all-star game. We support the protocols put in place by the state of Wyoming, Sheridan County and Sheridan College to protect the health and safety of players, game personnel and spectators,” Rich "Bubba" Hall, Northern Wyoming Community College District athletic director, said in a press release.
“It is also important to provide a quality experience for the athletes and their families, and the pandemic will not allow us to do that without putting individuals at risk.”
Montana's boys lead their series 61-27 and have won 16 in a row. For the girls, Montana leads 33-13 and has won seven straight.
The boys series began in 1976 and the girls in 1997.
Sheridan College head coaches traditionally coach the Wyoming teams. Cody Ball, head men’s coach, agreed with canceling the games.
“As a native of the state of Wyoming, I know how important and fun these games are” Ball said in the release. “After two very close games with Montana last year, I was really looking forward to this year’s games. In the end, we chose to be cautious and keep the health of our athletes, fans, friends and families as our main priority.”
Ryan Davis, the Sheridan women’s coach, noted the importance of honor the teams.
“This year’s seniors have worked just as hard as any other class, yet they haven’t been able to finish their athletic journey” Davis said. “We want to give these student-athletes the opportunity to be recognized for what they accomplished this year.
“Even though our all-star game will not be held this summer, we are happy to honor these 20 individuals on their tremendous basketball seasons.”
Montana's boys team is comprised of Brendon Johnson, Livingston, Carter Ash, Bozeman; Keeley Bake, Fairfield; Abe Johnson, Missoula Hellgate; Camdyn LaRance, Missoula Hellgate; Famous Lefthand, Hardin; Julius Mims, Billings Skyview; Cayden Redfield, Hardin; Cade Tyson, Billings West; and Rollie Worster, Missoula Hellgate.
The girls honorees are Maddie Albrecht, Billings West; Willa Albrecht, Billings West; Dyauni Boyce, Roy-Winifred; Lexi Deden, Missoula Sentinel; Marie Five, Hardin; Mya Fourstar, Wolf Point; Kyndall Keller, Havre; L’Tia Lawrence, Harlem; Olivia Moten-Schell, Billings Central; and Kortney Nelson, Scobey.
The Wyoming team members will be released in the coming weeks along with the annual Ms. Wyoming and Mr. Wyoming basketball players of the year.