GREAT FALLS — For the past two years, the Roy-Winifred girls basketball program has finished as one of the top two teams in Class C, but they don’t have a championship to call their own. This season, Roy-Winifred has high expectations once again.
After the Outlaws defeated Belt in the Northern C divisional tournament in February, the two rivals were set to meet again in the State C championship two weeks later. But they never got the chance after COVID-19 cut the season short a day early.
That state championship was highly anticipated. Each team had beaten the other twice. Belt won the district championship. Roy-Winifred won divisionals.
"It was going to be like the perfect storm. It was like we were 2-2 with Belt. It was the rubber match," co-coach Mauri Elness said. "It was going to be like, alright, who is the best this year? And so we had a rivalry, it would have been a very fun game and we just didn't get to do it."
Instead, they shared a state championship. And now that it’s time to look forward, Roy-Winifred wants to be in the conversation at the end of the season again. The Outlaws return plenty of skill from last year, but their most obvious force will be 6-foot-1 junior Madeline Heggem.
"We have size, so we're going to try to go inside out and try to get the ball to our bigs and that kind of thing," Elness said. "So we want to use what we can with our assets.
With or without COVID, the Outlaws will face some challenges. Roy-Winifred has just 12 players on the roster, and projected starting point guard Laynee Elness won’t play this year due to knee injury. A dense schedule also won’t be very forgiving.
"We're going to be playing three games a week. We're probably going to have one to two practices a week when it comes down to January when we start playing," coach Elness said. "So we're going to have to be very organized, very prepared, and just learn from every game and use it as a teaching moment, and hopefully peak when we need to."