HELENA -- On the eve of their Western AA conference openers against Missoula Hellgate, the Helena High Bengals boys and girls basketball teams are preparing for a stiff test.
The Helena High boys will face the 2019 State tournament runner-up to open their season at home. The Knights come to Helena with offensive weapons like Rollie Worster and Abe Johnson, and the Bengals know stifling them will be difficult, which is why the Bengals know they have to minimize their mistakes in order to come out on top on Jan. 9.
"The biggest thing with Hellgate, is just controlling their fast break. They do a great job of getting the ball down the court, and they obviously have a lot of open threats," said Boys head coach Brandon Day. "Our biggest goal is to minimize turnovers on our end and not give them second chances on the offensive end. If we can do those things hopefully to give ourselves a chance."
The Helena girls will start their season on the road against the Knights. The last time the two teams met was in the 2019 divisional round of the playoffs where Missoula Hellgate beat the Bengals, 54-50. Now a little under a year removed from the matchup, the Helena High Bengals are a vastly different team and going through growing pains.
With losses to Billings Senior and Billings West, the Bengals are facing a bit of an identity crisis, one that will hopefully be resolved be the time the final buzzer sounds on the Jan. 9 matchup.
"Four games in, and I still think we're figuring it out. I think tomorrow will be a good gauge for us, because we're playing a high quality opponent. One of the top teams in the state," said girls head coach Eric Peterson. "So for us to go in there, and in that environment, and we're going to kind of see where we're at and where we've come from the beginning of the year to right now. So I feel like as of right now, we don't know quite our identity, but we have a track going to where we know where we're going to be, and who we're going to be."
The Helena High boys will host the Hellgate Knights, and the Knights will host the Bengals girls with both games tipping off at 7:15 on Jan. 9.