Mar 25, 2014 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorHe guided Douglas to the Class 3-A girls title in his first season
on the job.
Cody Helenbolt didn't act like a rookie coach in his first season at the helm of the Douglas girls basketball team.
Instead, the former Lander Tiger basketball player took his team all the way to the title on Saturday, March 15, at the Casper Events Center.
Helenbolt graduated from Lander Valley High School in 2002.
Douglas finished the season with a 25-3 record.
"Winning a state title in my first year was amazing because of everything this group of kids has gone through to get to this point," Helenbolt said."
Douglas had lost in the state basketball title game in the previous two years.
"A lot of people thought we had missed our opportunity after all three of our all-state players from the 2012-13 team graduated," Helenbolt said.
Helenbolt's brother, Evan Helenbolt, is on the staff for Douglas as well. Evan graduated from Lander in 2005 after playing in the Class 3-A state title game
"It was awesome to have my brother on the bench with me as assistant coach," Cody Helenbolt said. "Our coaching staff is great because our junior varsity coach is like a brother to us also. We have a lot of fun. They are both great guys and great coaches. I couldn't ask for better coaches."
During the regular season, Douglas lost two players to injuries, both seniors.
"Even more people doubted that we could win," Helenbolt said. "It was an unreal experience to see the kids' faces after finally accomplishing their goal of a state championship after everything that happened."
The climb to the top started a few weeks before the season had ended.
Douglas lost to Torrington in overtime by a point. At the time, Torrington was ranked No. 1 in Class 3-A.
"That game made our kids believe that we could beat anybody," Helenbolt said.
Douglas didn't lose a game after that, winning 10 straight games.
After a 37-26 win over Powell in the state semifinals, Douglas played Worland for the title. In the championship game, Douglas defeated Worland 37-26.
It was the fourth time Douglas and Worland had collided on the basketball court this season.
"I felt like we had a good game plan going in," Helenbolt said.
"They came out and surprised us a little with a zone that they had not played in any of our other games."
Douglas all-state players Ashlie Blackburn and Jess Underberg came up huge for Helenbolt.
"Our kids stayed confident and kept battling," Helenbolt said. "We were able to put the game away in the fourth quarter."
Helenbolt's team edged Lander 44-40 in the opening game of the state tournament, a game that wasn't decided until the last 30 seconds.
"The game was extremely close with Lander," Helenbolt said. Lander tied the game on a 3-pointer with about two minutes left in regulation.
"We were able to score a couple of baskets in the final minutes to win," Helenbolt said. "Once we got past that game, our team felt very confident that we would win the whole thing."
Douglas will graduate seven seniors from the team this year.
"We will have four of our top players coming back," Helenbolt said.
"It will be a little bit of rebuilding without those seven seniors, but we should be a very competitive team for the next few years."
Helenbolt can't wait to continue the challenge of staying on top.
"I'm really excited about the players that I will get to coach the next year years," Helenbolt said.
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