Young Camel girls team ready to surprise the state | Local

For the first time in 22 years, Campbell County High School is entering a season with a new girls’ basketball coach.

Mitch Holst resigned in May after winning eleven state titles with the program. Instead of retiring, he switched to coaching the JV boys team at CCHS this winter.



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Campbell County High School freshman Lauren Kuhbacher dribbles behind her back while Junior Millie Riss watches her during Monday’s practice at CCHS.


Braidi Lutgen took over Holst after a one-year coaching break. Lutgen coached Thunder Basin to his first state title in 2019 before stepping down after the 2020 season.

Lutgen graduated from CCHS in 1996 after helping to win three state championships for the camels. Her older brother Bubba Hladky trains the boys’ university team in the same gym.

With a new face at the top of the program, the camels are preparing to fight for a place in the state tournament. Lutgen expects to surprise teams in a loaded Class 4A division later this season.



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Campbell County High School senior Maddie Jacobson passes the ball during a practice session Monday at CCHS.


Revise the competition

It would be easy for coaches and other players in the state to overlook the camels. The team is returning only one starter from last year’s team.



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Campbell County High School trainer Braidi Lutgen guides her team through the exercises during Monday’s practice at CCHS. Lutgen is training at her alma mater in her first year after long-time Camels trainer Mitch Holst switched to trainer for the JV boys’ team in the summer.



But under Lutgen, the camels aren’t worried about what other teams across the state are thinking. All the camels care now is to control what they can control both on and off the field.

“We will be young and inexperienced, but I think that we will make up for anything that we lack in experience with a hectic pace,” said Lütgen. “We’ll play fast, that’s the main reason we condition so much.

“We will be known for our defense and we will play deep.”



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Campbell County High School student Mykyhia Dymond tries to dribble past freshman Kaylie Neary while training at CCHS on Monday.


The most notable theme of this year’s camels is youth. Maddie Jacobson – the tallest player on the team at 6 feet – 1 – is the only senior on the team. She will lead the team along with juniors Millie Riss, Madison Robertson and Raimi Hladky.

Hladky was supposed to be the starting keeper of the camels earlier in the year but will miss the first month of the season after injuring her hip, Lutgen said. Sophomore Sydnee Streitz was a major contributor as a freshman last year but will miss the entire season after tearing her cruciate ligament tear that summer.

Injuries aside, Campbell County will be one of the youngest teams in Class 4A. But the bulk of the roster did a lot of work at the gym over the summer and off-season, Lutgen said.



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Campbell County High School Junior Millie Riss searches for an open teammate during a practice session Monday at the CCHS.


The sophomores Cami Curtis and Onna Castellanos could contribute to the start of the season, as could newcomer Lauren Kuhbacher. Minutes are never a constant for a coach like Lutgen, who comes on early and often depending on the course of the game.

Now the most important thing for the Camels is that the entire squad is committed to a new offensive system and a completely new coaching staff. The new system includes a style of play that emphasizes team basketball.

“You just have to get into flying around on defense and learn how to have a team concept for basketball where you know every night that someone else might be in the spotlight,” Lutgen said. “All 12 will play and all 12 will play an important role on this team.”

Campbell County won’t rely on a goalscorer to win or lose games, Lutgen said. The camels will win as a team and the camels will lose as a team.



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Campbell County High School freshman Erika Martinez drives through the lane during practice on Monday at the CCHS.


“I think it’s going to be really hard for the teams to beat us,” said Robertson. “There won’t be just one person to watch over you. The whole team will be able to score. “

The coaching philosophies of Holst and Lutgen are almost identical. The strategic similarities helped ease the transition for the older players who started their careers under Holst.

“It’s just a different atmosphere,” said Jacobson. “It’s the same intensity as always, but (Lutgen) has her own little things that she implemented that I think will benefit us in the long run.”

The Camels have not reached the state tournament since 2019. Campbell County were eliminated in the regional tournament last year after a disappointing first-round loss to Sheridan. It was the Camels’ first loss to the Broncs of the season.

As the only senior on the team, Jacobson would like to end her basketball career at the state tournament in March at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper.

An important factor in achieving that goal is for the team to maintain their intensity throughout the season, Riss said. To do this, the team must take advantage of every minute of every game it plays.



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Campbell County High School junior Millie Riss directs traffic during a practice session Monday at the CCHS.



“We just have to have this togetherness where we stay together all season,” said Riss. “When the going gets tough or we lose, we just have to stick together as a team.”

The camels will start the season by holding the REMAX / Gillette invitation at the CCHS starting Thursday. Campbell County will play South Dakota’s Saint Thomas More at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.



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Campbell County Senior Maddie Jacobson smiles as she practices free throws during Monday practice at CCHS.


The Camels play against Evanston on Friday at 6pm and against Cody on Saturday at CCHS.

For a preview of the girls’ basketball season in Thunder Basin, visit gillettenewsrecord.com or Tuesday’s print edition.