It’s full steam ahead for the Montana high school basketball season. The first full weekend is in the books and provided plenty of eye-opening results.
One of Class AA’s boys co-champions has already been knocked off, as Billings Skyview fell on the road. The other co-champion, Missoula Hellgate, will have some serious competition as the best team in its own town.
The Missoula Hellgate girls certainly looked the part of a championship contender, as the Knights knocked off one of Class AA’s defending co-champions over the weekend.
The Dillon boys looked impressive in their opening weekend, as they joined the trend of knocking off defending co-champions. Frenchtown’s boys had a nice weekend out west, as well, racking up a pair of victories.
Hardin’s girls were able to hold on at Havre, as the Bulldogs will have a target on their back as one of Class A’s defending co-champions. Don’t count out Havre just yet, though. A pair of teams in the Northwestern A looked impressive in their debuts, also.
The Lodge Grass boys aren’t going anywhere. The Indians went on the road against one of the Southern B’s best and came out victorious. Shelby’s boys were equally impressive up north, as the Coyotes won a pair of games by 40-plus points.
Both of Class B's defending girls co-champions have lost. Anaconda stunned Missoula Loyola's girls, while Colstrip took hold of District 3B with a dominant win against Forsyth. Malta’s girls look like they’ll be tough in the Northern B once again, as the M-Ettes dispatched of one of the Southern B’s best.
We’ve already had a team hit the century mark. The Chinook boys doubled up Big Sandy in the process. The Sugarbeeters scored more than 80 points per game across their three games last week. Chinook wasn’t the only boys team lighting it up, though.
Sticking with the theme, defending co-champion Fairview was taken down by one of the up-and-coming teams in the Eastern C.
It sure looks like the District 4C girls title will run through Melstone once again. The Broncs bested the defending Southern C champion on the road last week. The Eastern C is going to be a dog fight, but Plentywood showed it’s going to be a team to watch throughout the year.
That and more highlight what caught my eye in a jam-packed weekend of high school basketball.
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- Billings Skyview looks like it's going to face an uphill battle this season. The defending co-champions fell to Bozeman over the weekend and may not have the firepower to hang with the best in the Eastern AA this season. Skyview has a huge game against Billings West this week. Another loss will leave the Falcons with a ton of work to do to have a shot at the regular-season conference title.
- Look out, Missoula Hellgate. Missoula Sentinel looks like a championship-caliber basketball team and could dethrone the Knights as the kings of Missoula. Montana State commit Alex Germer and Tony Frohlich-Fair led the Spartans to wins over Kalispell Flathead and Kalispell Glacier this past weekend. Those two will be instrumental in keeping Sentinel in the championship hunt in 2021.
- Another classification, another co-champion down. Butte Central was knocked off by Dillon this past weekend, as the Beavers put together a nice start to the new campaign. After beating the Maroons by 13, the Beavers blasted Stevensville. Dillon is going to be a problem in the Southwestern A this season.
- Frenchtown, too, looks like it will be a contender in the Southwest A. The Broncs beat Whitefish and Class B Florence to open the year. There's been plenty of roster turnover throughout the Western A in the past couple seasons, including the Broncs losing standout scorer Cade Baker. It doesn't appear that the Broncs are going to a miss a beat, though.
- All roads to a Class B boys state title look like they lead to Lodge Grass. The defending co-champions went on the road and beat Huntley Project, one of the Southern B's best, 66-58. The Indians weren't at full strength and are still getting their roster acclimated after COVID-19 has kept Lodge Grass from hitting the ground running. Standout junior Damon Gros Ventre poured in 21 points in the win over Huntley Project and is just seven shy of 1,000 for his career, a number he'll likely hit on Wednesday night against Hardin.
- Shelby looks like it's going to be playing late in the high school basketball season. The Coyotes put a beat down on Choteau and Great Falls Central this weekend, scoring at least 70 points in both games and holding both teams below 30. The Northern B appears that it will go through Shelby.
- Chinook lit it up this weekend. The Sugarbeeters capped their three-game week with a 104-52 win over Big Sandy. Ethan Bell led the way with 31 points, as Chinook looks like a real threat in the Northern C. Chinook's 69 points against Hays-Lodgepole were their fewest of the weekend, as the Sugarbeeters totaled 253 points in three contests.
- Simms and Manhattan Christian proved they can score, too. Simms hung 90 points on Cascade, 85 points on Valier and 70 on Foothills Community Christian. How fun would a Chinook/Simms game be? Manhattan Christian, too, proved it can fill it up. Behind former Livingston head coach Layne Glaus, the Eagles scored 84 in a win over Shields Valley. Something tells me these teams are just hitting the tip of the iceberg in respects to their scoring potential.
- Missoula Hellgate came on strong to close the 2020 season and the Knights look to have carried that into 2021. Hellgate knocked off defending Class AA co-champion Helena Capital, 52-50. The Knights are now virtually in control of the Western AA, but Kalispell Glacier will present a challenge for Hellgate when the two meet up. Nonetheless, the Hellgate girls are going to be a force throughout the year.
- Defending co-champion Billings West handled business this weekend, even with several new faces making a big impact. The Golden Bears swept the Bozeman schools and will again be a top contender in the Eastern AA. A meeting with Billings Skyview gets more enticing by the day.
- Hardin and Havre delivered another classic game. The Bulldogs held off the Blue Ponies, 41-38, as the defending co-champions start the 2021 season with a bang. After losing several pieces, Hardin is looking to new girls for production and will be a factor in the Eastern A race once again. Don't count out Havre, either. The Blue Ponies have too much experience and too much talent not to compete for a divisional title.
- Columbia Falls and Browning controlled the Northwest A throughout the majority of 2020. That could once again be the case in 2021. Both the Wildkats and Indians picked up dominant victories over the weekend as they prime for a conference title run.
- Down goes another defending co-champion. In this case both. Anaconda handed Missoula Loyola a 58-50 defeat. Not only does it snap Loyola's win streak that began last year and saw the Breakers roll through an unbeaten regular season, but it also gives Anaconda the early edge in the District 6B standings. Loyola has its work cut out for it.
- Forsyth lost in a much different manner than Loyola. The Dogies were steamrolled by District 3B foe Colstrip, which won the 2020 Southern B divisional title, 77-37. Colstrip announced that it will be a legitimate state championship contender, while Forsyth may also fall back to the pack a little bit.
- Also of note, Malta, which made the State B tournament last year, beat Roundup over the weekend to hand the Panthers their first loss. Roundup will be one of the contenders in a crowded Southern B field, but don't forget about Malta in the Northern B. The M-Ettes look like they'll be hanging around the top again.
- Maybe Melstone was a year ahead of schedule in 2020? The Broncs, led by explosive junior Draya Wacker, appear to be even better than the team that made the 2020 State C tournament. Melstone went on the road and handed Ekalaka, 2020's Southern C divisional champ, a 53-33 defeat in a game that was never close. Melstone will likely be the favorite in the Southern C, as the Broncs aim for consecutive state tournament appearances.
- Plentywood's 47-40 victory over Froid-Medicine Lake could be pivotal when the postseason rolls around. In the always competitive District 2C, every victory is going to be of utmost importance, especially when it comes against the top-tier teams. For now, Plentywood looks like one of the top teams in a crowded Eastern C field.