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Off and flying: Years of growth have Missoula Big Sky girls rolling through competition

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Posted at 5:16 PM, Feb 09, 2024

MISSOULA — The Missoula Big Sky girls basketball team has been on a roll this season.

It hasn't come as a surprise. After all, the Eagles were beginning to break out last season en route to making the State AA tournament for the first time since 2016.

And this season, they've been off and flying from the jump.

"A lot of us were in here in the summer working and improving our skills and improving our chemistry together," senior guard Audrey Hale said. "And then once the season started, we hit the ground running. Like our drills were intense. We gave it all every single practice, every single drill, every single game. And we just want to keep trying to do that for the rest of the season."

The Eagles fell in their opener to defending champion Billings West.

Since? They've won 13 in a row and are undefeated in Western AA play, sitting at 13-1 and 10-0 on the season.

"I think everybody's getting a little bit more more excited and more antsy into every game because we have something to lose," junior forward Kadynce Couture said. "Because before in my freshman season, it was like, if we win, we win. But now since there's something on the table, I think we're working a lot harder."

"It's been amazing," Hale added. "I mean, coming in freshman year, we won one game. So seeing that all these girls and all these players have really put in the work over the years. And now we're here. Like we're undefeated in the West. So just to be able to see the growth and change over the years, it's really amazing. And I'm glad that I can experience all that."

The Eagles sport just two seniors this season in Hale and Delaney Laird, and that's been a trend, as over the last few years young players as freshmen and sophomores have been thrown into the fire to grow.

Now this year under second-year head coach Travis Williams, that work and development has been unlocked with those players hitting their strides after years of learning through losses, but simultaneously growing their chemistry.

"Everything's coming together slowly. But I think it is all just like putting pieces together," sophomore guard Avory Decoite said. "I think the fundamentals are huge right now. And we're trying to focus on those right now. But I think it's going good."

Decoite, Hale and Couture have been a three-headed monster leading the Eagles this season. Couture, who has verbally committed to Idaho, is one of the top players in the state, while Hale has been a sharpshooter and senior leader, and Decoite runs the show at point guard for Big Sky as a threat at both scoring and distributing.

Junior Sadie McGuinn offers another scoring threat as does sophomore Mya Hubbard, as the two of them round out the starting lineup. Other impact players include juniors Kyler Latrielle, Valentina Kirilovich and Gianna Janacaro, who, alongside Laird, all serve as key rotational pieces to round out the Eagles' depth, effectiveness and experience.

That loss to West was a catalyst as Big Sky began to figure things out to start the season.

Ever since, they haven't missed a beat, as they've gone 4-0 in crosstown games against Hellgate and Sentinel, and now are hitting the home stretch and ready to make a statement as postseason play is right around the corner with the State AA tournament right in their backyard at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula March 7-9.

"Our potential is so much bigger than what we know. I think we just kind of scratched the surface, how we get there," Couture said. "It's gonna be how we practice, sticking together as a team throughout the whole game. And keeping that intensity up."

"It's good. I know everyone puts time in all the offseason, so watching everyone come together to make one strong unit is cool to see," Decoite added.