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Under coach Don Bos, Glendive soared in the 1980s
Gazette File From left, Keith Polesky, Carey Toepke, assistant coach Fen Wilkinson, head coach Don Bos and assistant coach Terry Hoffer. Gazette file Rob Stoltz, above, drives the lane during the 1986 championship season. Gazette file Todd Ragar, right, was a key member of the 1981-83 Glendive teams.

Todd Ragar remembers the play that incurred the wrath of Don Bos.

"I was out of control and I had to go behind my back to pass," said Ragar, who recalled that the play resulted in a layup.

That didn't matter. It still didn't help Ragar avoid the wrath of coach Bos.

"At the next time out, he told me if I ever did that again, I would never play again. Or something to that effect," Ragar said, laughing at the memory.

Bos, the former boys basketball coach at Glendive's Dawson County High School, wanted his players to be under control, to minimize mistakes and make the other team play at the Red Devils' tempo.

It worked spectacularly well.

During a seven-season span in the 1980s, Glendive put together one of the most dominating stretches in state history. From 1980-81 through 1986-87, the Red Devils claimed four Class A state championships. They also finished third in 1983, played in the consolation game in 1985 and won 126 of 169 games.

It was a convergence of talent, expert coaching and a willingness to accept roles that made the Red Devils so good.

In fact, one of the first things that members of those teams recall is teamwork. They also remember how well the coaching staff had them prepared.

"It was all pretty basic," Ragar said, now a doctor in Billings, who played from 1981-83. "A lot of passing and good defense. My memory is there was never any discussion. It was the fundamentals that the coach wanted."

Bos and his staff of Fen Wilkinson, Terry Hoffer and Steve Wedel were good teachers who got the players to believe in the system that wasn't flashy, but effective.

Keith Polesky, a point guard on the '86 and '87 teams, said the system didn't emphasize individuals.

"Everybody had a role," said from his home in Miles City. "It was a team effort. We didn't have any stars except for Roger (Fasting). He could have scored 30 a game, but Bos didn't want any superstars.

"We were just so disciplined. Bos was a stickler for discipline and details. We would win, but it was boring."

Bos doesn't disagree with Polesky.

"There are some that thought that. We asked him to do only three things, so it was probably pretty boring."

But Bos says Polesky played his position well.

"There is no better example (of a team player). We needed a point guard who could take care of the ball and not score a whole lot and he did that. In the state tournament (1986), he turned it over only three times."

Bos said fostering that team concept was important.

"It keeps them interested. I've never thought too much of the star system, of relying on one guy," Bos said.

As a result, his teams were extremely difficult to beat.

"The biggest thing is that we truly were a team," said Duane Chelgren, who played from 1981-83. "Our strength was that you couldn't key on any one person. We knew our defenses and we controlled tempo. We did the things we wanted to do."Keep it under 70Due to their style, the Red Devils weren't a team that racked up a lot of high scores, but they didn't give up much either.

In their four championship seasons, the most points scored on them was 68 by Colstrip in the 1987 season. In fact, through the whole seven year period, the Red Devils yielded more than 70 just six times.

"We'd mix it up a lot (on defense)," Chelgren said. "It would never be the same. We'd change what we did by quarters and try to get a jump on them."

Wilkinson said Bos was very good at preparation.

"He was very good at scouting the other team and coming up with a game plan to shut down their best player," Wilkinson said.

"Bos was more of a manager-type coach," recalls Steve Anderson, who played in '81 and '82. "The assistants did a lot of the specialty work and he would meld it all together. He didn't yell a lot, or no more than the normal coach does. We'd run different defenses and offenses according to the team we were playing. He was a pretty good strategist."

Rob Stoltz, a member of the '86 champions, had the same experience as the earlier players.

"Every day in practice was fundamentals. We always had good defensive schemes."The Bos eraGlendive enjoyed success in the 1970s, playing in four championship games and winning the 1977 championship. Bos was part of that, having served as an assistant under Pat O'Connor.

Bos took over the program in 1979-80. A year later, the Red Devils and Bos began to make their mark in the new decade.

Going into the 1981 state tournament, there was no clear-cut favorite. Polson had the best record at 20-2, but Glendive was considered a strong challenger.

The Red Devils opened with Butte Central and a 28-6 run in the second quarter put them well on the way to a 68-55 victory.

What followed was an awesome semifinal performance against Billings Central. Glendive took the Rams apart, 74-30. Carey Toepke scored 16 points, but was the only one to reach double figures as 11 Red Devils made the scoring column.

The championship game promised to be difficult against Miles City, which featured Clay Griffith and Bruce Randall, who went on to play college football at Washington and Montana State, respectively.

Glendive watched a 14-point lead dwindle to two early in the fourth quarter. However, the Red Devils made 12 of 16 free throws and won the title with a 52-41 victory.

The Red Devils were a target throughout the '82 season, but lost just three games. (6-foot-6), Dietrich (6-6), Ty Milne (6-3), Chelgren, and Steve Polesky were the starters, but the bench was very strong with Anderson, Grant Olson and the late Duane Rilla.

The Red Devils received an opening round scare from Hamilton. Dietrich and Rilla provided the clutch points. Dietrich hit two baskets to put Glendive ahead 43-41 and Rilla made two free throws with 11 seconds left for a four-point lead.

Ragar supplied 16 points and Rilla came off the bench and hit six of 10 shots to spark a 63-50 semifinal victory over Butte Central.

The bench was again a big factor in the championship game as Anderson had 15 and Rilla 10 in Glendive's 59-51 victory over Livingston. Anderson went 6 for 9 and Rilla 5 of 10 from the floor and the defense limited Livingston to 26 percent shooting.

While Ragar and Chelgren were the only regulars back in 1983, Glendive managed to make the semifinal round. Livingston, however, exacted some revenge with a 70-65 victory.

Two years later, Glendive lost again in the semis to Livingston and the Rangers won another title (Livingston won three in the decade, also winning in '89). That loss proved to be motivation for the 1986 team.

Stoltz recalls watching the '85 title game and thinking "that could be us next year. We had good seniors and good athletes."Fasting & CompanyOne of those good athletes was Fasting, who went on to have a stellar career at the University of Montana. The Red Devils also had cousins Brad and Cory Nissley, Stoltz and Keith Polesky in the starting lineup.

Fasting, Brad Nissley and Stoltz, who played football for the Bobcats, provided most of the scoring punch.

The Red Devils got off to a slow start, losing four of their first seven games. They never lost again.

Glendive did have to survive an upset bid by Polson in the first round of the state tournament. Fasting's basket at the buzzer won it, 56-54.

Stoltz threw in 19 points, Cory Nissley had 16 and Fasting 14 in a 66-56 semifinal win over Whitefish.

In the championship game, Lewistown had a 23-22 lead on Glendive midway through the third quarter. The Red Devils then went on an 18-2 run to turn the game into a 61-41 rout.

Fasting and Cory Nissley returned for the '87 season and Glendive continued to win until hitting a January slump where they lost three games in a row.

Bos remembers a game against Billings Senior during that stretch which turned out to be a key element to the season.

The Broncs, who went on to win the AA title, beat the Red Devils 58-43.

"They did some things to us that we hadn't seen (defensively)," Bos said. " I said, 'Hold it'. There's some things we have to cover. I think it actually helped us win the state championship."

In the state tournament, Glendive held off Dillon 52-47 in the first round and pulled away behind Fasting's 24 points and Hunter Fuqua's 15 to beat Lewistown 50-39 in the semifinals.

Fasting's 24 points helped the Red Devils build an 18-point lead in the championship game against Hardin and they held on for a 66-58 victory.

"The key factor in all of it was we had good kids," Bos said. "They all played in the offseason and worked in the weight room. The bought into the system and were team players."

Because they did that, the 1980s Red Devils will long be remembered.

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