Coach Barta returns to Cougar basketball
If you were a rookie high school coach in Montana and won every game you coached for 29 years, you would still be three wins short of Columbus coach Paul Barta’s career total.
Barta, who was elected to the Montana High School Association Hall of Fame over the summer, has compiled a staggering 757 wins in coaching stints at Medicine Lake, Glasgow and Columbus.
And Barta will add to that total as he leads the Columbus Cougar boys and girls teams through the 2015-16 campaign.
The tale of the two teams is very different however. The boys – while losing key players to graduation – return some solid veterans from last year’s 21-6 squad that won the regular-season 4B title, captured the Southern B Divisional title and placed fourth at state.
Those graduates include Kade Osborne and Trey Ostrum – who formed the Cougar backcourt for the last 3-plus years – along with Brady Exner, Braden Marjerison, Andrew Wells and Mason Johnston.
Headlining the returners are Tanner Osborne who led the team in scoring a year ago at 13.3 points/game and rebounding at 6.3 per game, and fellow-senior Kiefer McKay who chipped in 11.3 points and led the team in steals with 86.
Senior Ryland Stampfel, who filled the sixth man role last year, is also back and should contribute significantly. Senior Jackson Booth, and juniors Jace Aumueller, Chuck Miller and Jack Gray saw some varsity action last year and will be in the mix, as could junior Zach Sutton.
“We’ll play a style much like last year,” said Barta. “We’ll run when we can.”
The girls team is a different story.
The bulk of the experience, including all five starters – Rachael Ault, Kyla Rouane, Courtney Martinez, Hailey Campbell and Madi Sindelar – graduated from last year’s 19-11 team that captured the 4B tournament title and finished fourth at state.
A trio of returning seniors – Tana House, Kenedy Wiggs and Carli Dyba – saw significant varsity minutes a year ago and will be expected to shoulder much of the load. Fellow seniors Desirae Gibson, Tyona Robbins and Moore-transfer Jessi Lee are also in the competition for playing time.
The team has only one junior in Megan Rouane, who continues the legacy started by sisters Tessa and Kyla. Rouane, along with sophomores Ulu Brooks, Maddy Carmen and Forsyth-transfer McCamey Miller, as well as freshman Alexa Riveland, are expected to round out the varsity squad, although there are a number of other underclassmen that could work their way into varsity minutes.
With 85 percent of last year’s scoring graduated, most coaches would call this a rebuilding year. But nobody relishes the challenge of turning an inexperienced group into a tough tournament team more than Barta, who simply states, “We’ll play good defense and give ourselves a chance each game.”
The assistant coaching staff is much the same as last year, although boys’ C-squad coach, Jay Forseth, has resigned, leaving Ron Osborne to handle both C-squad and JV boys teams.
Kay Faust is back to coach C-squad girls, and newcomer Jeromey Burke will coach JV girls. Burke was the varsity boys coach at Joliet the last two years and coached sophomore and JV boys teams for seven seasons at Billings Skyview prior to that.
Barta expects a very balanced district 4B on the boys side, and expects Shepherd and Red Lodge to be the favorites on the girls side.
“We have another group of good players who will work to be the best they can be,” he said. “It will be fun.”
The Cougars open at Joliet on Friday then host Big Timber on Saturday.