Starting, and finishing, together. .

By Jason Kort
Sports Writer- Gillette News Record

Former Winnett-Grass Range basketball players, Holly Matovich (left) and Angie Murnion, share a lighter moment on the Pronghorn bench. The two Grass Range graduates played basketball together from the third grade through two years of college ball at Gillette College.                                                                                                 

  Photo courtesy of Gillette News Record

Editor’s Note: We thought you might enjoy this story written by Jason Kort of the Gillette News Record about Angie Murnion and Holly Matovich. The original story appeared in the Gillette News Record on March 6.
Although the two Grass Range girls were not successful in winning another Region IX tournament championship, Murnion and Matovich had a great time playing together at the junior college level. Later in March Murnion earned honors by being named to the Region IX all-conference team.
We wish to thank Jason Kort and the Gillette News Record in allowing us to run the story in the News-Argus.

The basketball competition started when they were in third grade.
Two young girls from a small town in Montana grew up as best friends that were on the same team in every sport growing up.
The dream to continue playing basketball together after high school, because it seemed unrealistic to ever happen, appeared to be just that — a dream.
Two years later though, Angie Murnion and Holly Matovich will try to help the Gillette College women’s basketball team capture a second straight Region IX tournament championship in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, this week — together.
After helping Gillette earn its first region title in school history during the 2015-16 season, the two Gillette sophomores now look to repeat that feat.
Before wearing a Gillette uniform though, the two had plenty of success on the hardwood in their hometown of just 105 people — Grass Range, Montana.
Murnion and Matovich were both three-time All-State selections for Winnett/Grass Range High School.
Their team finished third at state in their freshman and junior seasons, while earning a runner-up finish as sophomores.
Hoping to capture a Montana Class C high school state championship together, the two girls entered their senior season with a different mindset — after coming so close the previous three years to garnering the elusive trophy that was awarded to the state’s top team at season’s end.
“We were definitely pretty set on going that year,” Murnion said of her senior year of high school. “And they (state association) changed the districts around right before our senior year.”
The sudden switch of districts put the No.1 ranked team in their division — rival Belt High School — the same team that beat them in the championship game during their sophomore season.
Grass Range was playing for third place in the district consolation championship game against Centerville High School, holding a comfortable lead in the third quarter.
Matovich, the team’s point guard and vocal leader, split two defenders and was tripped — hitting her head hard on the court.
“I remember watching it happen,” Murnion said of her teammate’s fall. “At that point, I didn’t even really care what happened with the basketball game.”

One setback to overcome
The possibility of playing for a state championship, let alone for the Pronghorns together, was all up in the air.
The guard’s injury was serious — a concussion and blowing out both of her eardrums.
“ I don’t remember any of it,” Matovich recalls of her injury. “It was a long road to recovery.”
At that point, Matovich thought her days of playing the sport she grew to love with Murnion always beside her, were coming to an end.
Murnion said the team had momentum and a big enough lead at the time of Matovich’s injury that the team was able to pick up the win.
After winning one game in divisionals, Winnett/Grass Range advanced to the semi-finals — still without Matovich.
The team suffered a loss, ending the high school careers for the two competitors — although only one was playing in that game.
Murnion and Matovich remember sometimes not having enough players to scrimmage in practices during their senior season, being in the smallest classification in the state.
“Sometimes it made for short practices,” Murnion said. “We would shoot a lot and just run through our plays.”

New beginning
As the two ended their high school basketball careers, neither one of them knew they would end up playing in Gillette together.
Murnion was being recruited by Gillette coach Will Rider and decided to sign on the last day of high school in May.
Rider saw Murnion play at the Treasure State Classic in Billings, Montana — a tournament set up for high school athletes looking to get the college exposure before signing with a team.
Matovich did not play in that tournament, as she was still nursing her injury from the season.
Angie’s father, Rex, had conversations with Rider about a pretty good guard on his daughter’s team — Matovich.
On the day that Rider made the five-hour trek into Montana for Murnion to sign, the coach set up an individual workout for the point guard that had been injured in the district game months earlier.
Matovich said she was “basically sitting at home doing nothing,” and decided to pursue the possibility of playing for Gillette College.
She went through the regimen that Rider had put together, and gave the coach game film.
It was her first time working out since the injury in the Centerville game, but Matovich apparently still had the ability to impress a different coaching staff.
“I thought I did good for the condition I was in,” she said. “I was hoping I impressed him.”
A few weeks later, Matovich received a phone call from Rider. The coach wanted her to come play for the Pronghorns.
Through all the years of playing basketball together, this week’s Region IX tournament will be the final time the two call each other teammates.
Garnering the Pronghorns’ first Region IX championship last season, the “grass girls” look to help Gillette be the school’s first repeat winner in the region.
“That would be a lot of fun and so crazy,” Murnion said of winning the region again. “It has never happened in school history, so why not us?”
Murnion, who has started every game for the Pronghorns in her two years, is averaging nearly 12 points per game for Gillette through 29 games while shooting 33.9 percent from 3-point land and Matovich is averaging 2.1 points a game.
Moving on to play Division II basketball is Murnion’s goal when Gillette’s season ends, and if it happens, it would be the first time playing without the point guard she grew up with.
Matovich plans to attend Montana State-Billings and enter the nursing program to “see where that takes her.”
“The last two years has been a dream come true,” Matovich said.
“Spending two more years with her has really taken our friendship to the next level.”



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