BILLINGS — Billings Central’s boys have a bitter taste in their mouths from how last season ended.
The Rams won the regular season but were bounced early in the Eastern A divisional tournament, keeping them from a trip to state.
“For the guys, it’s so unusual that that happens. It’s the first time in a long time that it’s happened, so obviously it’s a letdown," senior Kade Boyd said. "But all our guys out here are motivated by that. No one wants to go out like that.”
“When you have a great season and you don’t go to state, it’s kind of like what the heck happened to you?" Central head coach Jim Stergar said. "We’re just going to try and pick up where we left off and be a successful program. The kids are the ones that run that show. Every new group that comes in, they want to be that next group.”
That’s something Central isn’t used to, and this year’s team has a chip on its shoulder because of it. They know the expectations from Stergar and the standard of excellence expected.
“I definitely think that tradition doesn’t graduate around here. There’s a lot of motivation to be the next team to do it," Stergar said.
“I think with the rich history at this school, kids coming into Central know that we do good things here. The upperclassmen are definitely going to push them hard, especially with the underclassmen and all the talent they have this year," said junior Kyler Northrop.
Don’t forget there’s a new wrinkle this season with the 35-second shot clock. Good defensive teams will get rewarded, and that’s where the Rams will enjoy the benefits.
“It should be fun. It’s going to be a good change. I think the kids are excited about it, too. They get a chance to shoot the ball when maybe they weren’t supposed to. We’ll see. It’ll be very interesting," said Stergar.
“Already in practice this year we’ve been putting the shot clock up there and even lower than it’s going to be just to work on getting shots off when we need to," Northrop said. "It’s going to be a little adjustment, but with our offense and getting shots quick like we can, I don’t think it’ll affect us too much. We’ll still score the ball like we know we can.”
Central gets its season started at home against Havre on Dec. 10.