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Knowing this season might be taxing, Wes Holmquist continuously reminded his players the challenges would all be worthwhile if they stuck together.

The Gallatin head coach was reminded of that after Thursday’s game. The Raptors were on the verge of taking their first ever win but then lost the lead late in the fourth quarter.

Nonetheless, the Raptors played cohesively down the stretch to beat Belgrade 47-44 on Thursday evening at Gallatin High. This was the first win for the first-year Gallatin program.

“I was really happy for the kids,” Holmquist said. “They’ve been amazing this year. I’ve been really proud of them.”

The Raptors nearly won at Belgrade in their first matchup of the season in January. Instead, the Panthers won by two points, their first victory against any opponent since December 2019 and against a Class AA program since their season opener in 1990.

Gallatin, though, was still searching for its first win.

On Thursday, the Panthers held a 14-8 lead after the first quarter, but the Raptors scored 14 points in the second frame to lead by one at halftime. Gallatin led 36-32 going into the final quarter.

However, Belgrade’s Naomi Reanier scored seven of her team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter. As Gallatin dealt with foul trouble, the Panthers led by six with about three minutes remaining.

Holmquist told his players to think about the game in terms of possessions, not points. With that much time left, the Raptors needed just two shots to tie it up.

“We have plenty of time if we just stick with what we’re doing and not panic,” Holmquist said, “and I thought they did a good job of that.”

Holmquist said the Raptors “got some big stops and hit some shots” in the ensuing few minutes. He added Gallatin “had a lot of girls score some big points in that fourth quarter.”

The game was tied when the Raptors called for timeout with less than 40 seconds to go. Belgrade was called for a technical foul, and the Raptors made both free throws and now had possession.

The Raptors ran about 20 seconds off the clock. After a foul led to Gallatin building the lead to three, Belgrade had a chance to tie it up with a 3-pointer. Holmquist commended his team for defending well on the play and grabbing the rebound.

Holmquist also complimented his team for having mental toughness. After a trying season, the Raptors were victorious.

“Our girls just hung in there, kept playing through it and kept being physical and sticking with it,” Holmquist said. “It was a team effort.”

Makinlee Naffziger led the Raptors (1-12) with 17 points while making 7 of 12 free throws. Molly O’Connor added 10 points while Aspen Evenson had eight.

McKenna Morris chipped in 10 points for the Panthers (1-12) while Sarah Riley Morris scored nine.

“For these kids, their resiliency and commitment has been really cool to see,” Holmquist said of his team. “I certainly felt like they’ve been doing the right things. … Obviously it was a close battle, a nail-biter down the stretch. For them to pull that game out was really fun.”

Holmquist said Thursday’s performance should give his program a boost. Whatever happens for the rest of the season, Holmquist noted the Raptors won’t have to go into this offseason still seeking their first win.

“It’s a big deal for these girls from a mental approach,” Holmquist said. “It’s fun. It’s why we play. We play to win.”

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Colton Pool can be reached at cpool@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.

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