MISSOULA — On Thursday night, Missoula Hellgate's girls basketball team improved to 6-0 on the season after a 28-point win over crosstown rival Missoula Sentinel.
The Knights are off to a fast start this season, and it comes after Hellgate was runners-up to Helena Capital last year in the Class AA state championship game. Just a two-point defeat to the Bruins last March, Hellgate comes into this year with plenty of fire ready to take the final step.
"Unfortunately we did fall short but this year we are hungry," senior forward Keke Davis said. "We're going to strive to get first this year and we're not going to stop until we do because I know for a fact this team wants it more than anything other than the whole world because we were there last year and we almost had it and we want this for sure."
A big reason why the Knights are off to a fast start is the core group of Hellgate's run to the state title game is back.
The Knights have been building to this run of success since they made the state tournament back in 2019 for the first time since fall of 2003. In 2019, the Knights had five freshmen players seeing major varsity minutes in Davis, Bailee Sayler, Addy Heaphy, Lauren Dick and Perry Paffhausen. Now as seniors, those five and the rest of the Knights — both current and prior — have built the program into a contender in the AA ranks.
"It's really cool, we've all grown up together and we've all played together throughout high school and we have really good team chemistry because of it and it's really fun to always be around these girls," Heaphy said. "It's really impressive and I feel like we have grown a lot as a team and we've really come together and it's impressive to see how far we've come over the past four years."
This year the Knights have seven total seniors, with Hailey Flamand and Elly Thorpe rounding out the group. With all of that experience back, plus 6-foot-6 junior post standout Alex Covill handling the paint, Hellgate is ready to make the ultimate push for a state championship come March.
"It's something where we've all grown individually, like we've all gotten better on our own but we've got that team chemistry," Sayler said. "We've always had it but it's just continued to grow as we grow as players too. We just kind of came out with that intensity that we needed to have and it kind of set the tone for the season I feel like."