BILLINGS – Quick – do you remember the score of Billings Senior’s win over rival West four weeks ago? The Bears certainly do: 49-34 has been fixed on West’s scoreboard during recent practices.
“We just look up there every time we need movtivation,” said West guard Shayla Montague.
“Because we don’t want to see that score again,” agreed teammate Ambreya Windy Boy. “That kind of hurts to see, but that motivates us more to work harder.”
The rematch is Thursday at 6 p.m. inside Rimrock Auto Arena, Game 1 of a doubleheader with the boys teams.
The first meeting was closer than the final score. West led in the fourth quarter, before the Broncs closed on a 21-4 run. That’s what they’re built for.
“We want our practices to be more difficult and more intense than game situations,” said Broncs coach Zach Robbins. “Then when we get in games, it’s like we’ve already been here, we’ve experienced this in practice.”
Since that first meeting, neither team has lost, including Senior running its win streak to 11 straight, all behind an old-school approach.
“I know the game has moved to guard-oriented play, but we’re still firm believers that there has to be an inside presence if you’re going to have success,” Robbins said.
“We’re really lucky to have such a great post player,” said Senior guard Ellie Ostermiller. “She’s obviously really good.”
To stop Senior, teams have to stop Kola Bad Bear, something West couldn’t do last month. The junior forward scored 23 points, and the Bears know it’ll take a village on Thursday.
“Our defense is looking a little better, so I think that will help us a lot with our Senior game,” said Montague.
“Now we kind of get into the groove more,” Windy Boy said. “We kind of lost that groove, now we’re finally getting back into that.”
But ask both coaches what this game will come down to, and neither will point to one big thing.
“It’s the little details that always add up in this game,” Robbins said. “We’re taking care of the ball, we’re rebounding well, we’re defending extremely well, and we’re moving the ball selflessly on offense and getting great shots.”
West coach Charlie Johnson knows his team can play better than its display in the first meeting.
“We’re talented enough to beat any team,” Johnson said, “but we understand if we don’t do some of the small things and some of the stuff that we kind of lack, we can get beat. If we learn to do that consistently, I like our chances.”
Thursday. And come tournament time.