HELENA — Crosstown basketball in the Capital City has arrived, and both Helena High and Helena Capital head coaches have a similar message for their squads heading into the games Friday night.
“Focus on us, my message to them is (to) enjoy the moment, I think we’ve got one of the greatest rivalries in the state...I love how our community comes out and supports it, so for our girls it’s, (just) don’t make it bigger than it is, and go out and enjoy this moment with your teammates,” said Capital girls head coach Katie Garcin-Forba.
Crosstown hoops requires no introduction as both Helena area high schools have had this day marked on their calendars for months. The Bengals as well as the Bruins will hit the hardwood Friday night at the Capital gym to settle the score for the first time this season.
Helena High girls coach Ben Dudek said of his team: “We have four returners that played major minutes. We had nine players play varsity last year, but everybody got significant time, so we return a good core of that group and they’re all working hard.
"I think they’re all excited to see not only the team succeed, but also their teammates and individuals succeed. I think everybody’s just excited and ready to go."
Both coaches emphasized how this week is more about the girls and about the seniors who are continuing to grow each and every week.
"Going into conference, for us, we want to be playing our best basketball in late February, early March and that's really what our goal is; being able to execute down the stretch," added Garcin-Forba, who has been apart of the program at Capital for 14 seasons.
This year will be a little different for the seniors on both squads, who have been playing against one another since they were in elementary school, like Gracie Mockel, who can’t wait to get to game day
“It’s our last one at home so, we’re all just trying to savor the moment, and we're gonna make sure that we have fun, but also focus in. It’s going to be a grind and also the environment is super crazy (and) we’re excited about that too,” proclaimed the 6-foot post player.
Mockel, along with seniors Anna Cockhill, Hailey Burger, Taylor Sayers, Brooklyn Brisko, Katie Sheridan, Riley Chandler and the rest of their Bruin teammates are again preparing to go up against their friends from across the tracks.
"We've all played against them our whole lives — and (we're) friends obviously through other sports. It's going to be really competitive. We also know what (they) like to do on the court and everything. Crosstown is great. Its always huge. Everyone shows up. We are excited," said Mockel, who will playing in her final home crosstown game of her high school career.
On the other side, Dudek is sure to have his seniors ready to play as Ashley Koenig, Avery Kraft, Evelynn Nielson and Kylee Gardipee, along with the rest of the Bengals, are looking forward to Round 1 of the doubleheader.
"Make sure you listen to what (Dudek) is saying and put that into what you're trying to accomplish. Basketball has been a sport that I've loved since I was little. I find that it's really fun to be a part of a team (like this)," mentioned Gardipee.
Tipoff between Helena (6-2, 4-0 Western AA) and Capital (4-4, 3-1) is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. with the boys game to follow.