BILLINGS — Not many Class AA basketball teams get the opportunity to win three consecutive state titles. That’s exactly what Billings Skyview is trying to do this season. The Falcons split a title in 2020 and won it outright last year. There are some new faces on the roster, but the key holdover is senior guard Payton Sanders.
“It was even more important that Payton was out the first couple preseason games because the other guys got to step up and fill those roles, kind of get those jitters out of the way and feel what it’s like to be on the varsity pace and the varsity floor," Skyview head coach Kevin Morales said. "It’s definitely a different pace than the JV. We’re just hoping that within our program it just builds like that. We go through from the JV level it just turns over into good varsity experience.
Skyview briefly played without its floor general, but the Falcons are undoubtedly a better team with Sanders out there running the show. Sanders is currently sixth in Class AA in scoring at 16.8 per game and second in assists at 5.5. But the question coming into the season was who would step up next to Sanders?
“Someone said it was a good band name, I think (Mike) Scherting said that. It’s ‘Payton Sanders and the Unknowns.’ That was kind of the mindset," Morales said. "I was telling these guys, like Lane (Love) and Rhyse (Owens) and all those that they need to just be ready and when they’re name is called they’ll have to step up. Now hopefully, the box scores, as we get into games, all these kids coming off the bench for us, the juniors the sophomores and the seniors as well.”
“I’ve got to get everybody the ball and everybody to score because they’ve got to be comfortable. I’ve got to give them the opportunity just like I got the opportunity," said Sanders. "You just got to throw them into the fire. They’re going to survive. This is the varsity level. You’ve got to bring it.”
Skyview stumbled a bit this past week, losing to both Billings West and Billings Senior, the Falcons’ first two losses in conference play. Skyview will learn from those games as they move towards the postseason and will look to be playing its best ball in a matter of weeks.
“We just need to work on ourselves. Turnovers, making shots, just the whole game play. We have a long way to go. We’re here for it. We’re here to go the long run," Sanders said.
Skyview is back in action on Thursday at Bozeman Gallatin.