HELENA — Helena crosstown basketball is an event that sees friends, family, students and the greater Helena community come together for one of two common goals, to rep their pride.
However, as of late, Helena High boys basketball has yet to stake its claim as the top team in town, with its last regular season win over the Helena Capital Bruins coming on January 17, 2019. It's a thought that weighs heavily on one player ahead of the matchup.
"It's my last ride in basketball. And yeah, I mean, you always want to end in a win at Crosstown because you want to have the bragging rights the rest of your life," said Helena High senior Colter Petre.
Crosstown brings its own layer of gravitas to the mix, with fans on top of each other and student sections brimming with excitement, but for some it's easier to understand the significance of the game, but treat it as a normal Thursday night.
"I want it just as bad as any other guy. But I mean, it means a little bit more, knowing I've never won one before, but just another game. You got to just prepare for it," said Helena High senior Cael Murgel.
As the Helena High boys, ranked No. 1 in the latest MTN Sports power rankings, are knee-deep in preparations to try and flip the script on the Capital, Bengals coach Brandon Day says there is one key difference from this year's squad compared to years past.
"We have multiple guys this year that can put the ball in the hole, which is something in the past we haven't had," said Day. "Teams have been able to take away our better scorers, you know? And this year, we have a pretty solid bunch of basketball players."
In turn, the Helena boys basketball team is off to one of its better starts in recent memory at 7-1 overall, but the reigning State AA champion Capital isn't far behind.
Though the Bruins currently sit at 6-2 overall, Capital players say they're going into Thursday's matchup in relatively unfamiliar territory, regardless of the win streak that they have.
"It's been a while and we're going in the underdogs, too right now. So, I mean, Almquist has told us that and we're just, we're just ready to play," said Helena senior Nick Michelotti.
The battles between Helena High and Capital are seldom similar, like snowflakes that fall all winter in Montana, each one is unique.
"You never know what could happen. You know, you've got to come out there, play your best game possible. You know they're gonna come and play their best game. It's the best rivalry in the state," said Helena High senior Hayden Opitz.
Helena Capital coach Guy Almquist has been around his program for over 20 years and knows that there are plenty of ways to pull out a win. When looking at this year's team compared to last, Almquist says he finds himself looking down the bench a little bit more this season.
"We've had a couple guys off the bench really step up, which is exciting to see and will pay some dividends here as we continue to play the season. Joey Michelotti's really done a good job of coming in and fulfilling his role," said Almquist. "Then Henry Gross has done a great job coming off the bench to get nine points, 11 points."
Helena High and Capital will tip off their continued rivalry on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Bengals' gym.