BILLINGS – It was 17-0.
Billings Senior blitzed longtime rival Billings West out of the gates Thursday night, scoring the first 17 points of the Eastern AA girls basketball game through the first six minutes. The Broncs looked well on their way to their 12th straight win and a stranglehold on the conference’s top seed.
And then the Bears woke up.
TyRaa Manuel gave West its first lead of the game with 44.6 seconds remaining, as the Bears earned a season split with Senior, 51-50, in one of the games of the year inside Rimrock Auto Arena.
West closed the gap to 28-20 by halftime and 40-36 by the end of the third quarter. The Bears pulled within one multiple times in the fourth, but still found themselves down 47-46 with under one minute to play.
Senior’s Sam Bonenberger missed a corner 3-point attempt, and Maddie Albrecht found a streaking Manuel in transition for the go-ahead runner, plus the foul. West forced a turnover on Senior’s ensuing possession, and Albrecht hit two free throws to put the game out of reach. Tavy Findon’s 3-pointer right before the final buzzer didn’t change the outcome.
The win pulls West even with Senior at 8-1 atop the Eastern AA standings with three conference games remaining. Both host Butte this weekend – West on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Senior on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.