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Helena High, Capital boys look to control emotions in first matchup of season

Jaxan Lieberg
Posted at 9:24 PM, Jan 18, 2024

HELENA — Both Helena High and Helena Capital boys basketball teams are looking to add another win to their Western AA records Friday when they meet for the first time this season. But there’s more on the line for both the Bengals and the Bruins.

"First of all, we just need the win, I mean, it's just another conference game for sure, but cross-town's got a little bit more of an edge to it, it’s definitely exciting," said Helena senior Carter Kraft.

Bengals seventh-year coach Brandon Day knows his squad can handle the pressure as they have already played in multiple overtime games this season.

“The big thing is that we’re 2-2 in conference right now and you know, we lost two in overtime, two conference losses are in OT, one in double overtime so, this is a big one for us, just in the conference record. We got (Missoula) Sentinel last week and (we are) hoping to carry over this week in a big game versus Capital," Day said.

One thing remains the same for both Day and Capital coach Guy Almquist.

"This team, this year, none of them have actually played in this game, but they have played in crosstown football or wrestling or whatever else it may be, so it’ll be a new experience for them. Basketball is a little different in a crosstown scenario than football. There’s no helmets to hide behind, you’re right there in front of everybody so, I think it’ll be great fun," Almquist said.

"I look forward to watching them in this opportunity, I'm sure there will be some nerves as I tell everybody. As a coach I’ve got nerves to start that game. If you're not nervous, because there’s a lot of work put into it, if your not excited about it, and have those butterflies, you’re probably in the wrong game. You just have to be able to control that early, and once the game gets going and you're two or three minutes in, it does become just another basketball game and you’re just trying to execute,” Almquist added.

One of those seniors who will be getting some playing time in their first-ever varsity crosstown game is the Bruins captain and future Montana Tech Oredigger Cole Dawes.

“We are just trying to stay loose and really keep our poise, and as (coach) Almquist has said all week, we've just got to let it rip. You know, I really can't believe that this road is starting to come to an end, but I’m just really excited for what we got planned this Friday," Dawes said.

On the other side of town, Helena High’s group of five seniors have contributed to the Bengals program in a variety of ways, such as Manu Melo, who is also heading to Montana Tech in the fall.

"Well, when I’m repping the crimson red and the silver, you know we're always trying to win. I'm just going to bring the intensity, play my role, do what I can to get a win." Melo said."Obviously there are two games in the season and potentially a playoff game, but we want to win them both. It’s just that competitive nature."

His teammate and starting Bengals guard Sam Ark agrees.

"Nothing gets better than this. We just want to win, we have put in so much work this week and we just want to come out on top," articulated Ark.

Capital’s senior leader, Dane Quinn, said his squad will be locked in come Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Bruins' gym.

“This whole team’s really been waiting for our chance to get to play in this game, especially at home. We are one of the closest-knit groups in the state. I think a win would mean a lot to all of us, so I really think the team will just come together and we're really all excited for it," said Quinn.

Each of these top tier head coaches really care about all of their players as they prepare to go up against one another for the seventh straight year.

“I’m going to guess it will be ugly the first couple of minutes, it almost always is, and then the teams will settle in and play good basketball so, if you’re a fan of basketball, a fan of high school kids, and you want to support them. Then, I think you should be here, because I think it will be a great game between two good teams tomorrow night,” Almquist said.

Not only will these seniors need to try and control their emotions, so will the head coaches.

"Myself, obviously, I'll still be a mess, still be excited and nervous at the same time. But hopefully it's all about keeping your composure, playing our game and taking care of the ball," said Day.