Sydney Sheridan makes a jump shot for Helena Capital during the team's season-opening scrimmage on Friday night. (RICHIE MELBY/MTN Sports)

HELENA – Bill Pilgeram may be the envy of Class AA girls basketball.

The longtime Helena Capital coach returns all five starters this season – Taylor Sullivan, Sydney Sheridan, Megan Lindbo, Katie Culver and Kacie Gross. It’s a luxury not often seen on the Montana prep courts. In fact, it’s a first for Pilgeram.

“Never in 26 years. This is the first time. It’s a rare occurrence,” he said. “In fact, if you look at our top eight or nine, they were all on varsity or (junior varsity) last year. We’ve got some good young freshmen and a couple sophomores that I think could break that mix, but our top group right now are all experienced and were all in practices last year. They’re not hearing these things for the first time.”

Expectations are understandably high for the Bruins this season. Sullivan, one of the top post players in Montana, committed to West Point over the weekend; Culver led the state with 1.52 points per field goal attempt, while Sheridan was among the state leaders in assists and steals.

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“Definitely to start off where we ended, not having to pick up anywhere and being really strong from the beginning and taking off from there,” Sullivan said of the early-season expectations.

Sullivan will likely draw the most attention from opposing teams, particularly Bozeman on Tuesday evening. Capable of playing inside and out, the forward is prepared to become the vocal leader Pilgeram expects.

“Just improving every aspect of my game individually and making sure everyone around me is improving, as well. Me finding the open player, me dishing, that’s really what I’m here to do, make the good passes and call good plays. We’re all in it together, so it doesn’t matter if I’m doing good, as long as we win,” Sullivan said.

Bozeman graduated six seniors from last season’s squad, with Riana Rogers, Elaine Chandler and Amber Tarabochia key players. But the Hawks tend to reload, leaving Pilgeram, Sullivan and Capital ready for anything.

“We’ve had a lot of history between us and Bozeman, including a couple of state championship games against them that we’ve played,” Pilgeram said. “Coach Erika Gustavsen does a great job with them. They’re always talented and well-coached. If you have those two things, you’re always going to be in the mix, and I expect them to be in the mix this year.”

“I guess we haven’t really talked about them much, we’re just ready to play,” added Sullivan. “Game 1, there are definitely going to be mistakes made, it’s just how we handle it. We have to overcome everything that happens and come out on top.”

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