BILLINGS – When all is said and done, we might look back at TyRaa Manuel’s runner with 45 seconds left in last Thursday’s Senior-West game as the most important basket of the girls basketball season.
“It was just like, ‘Ok, I have to do this for everybody else,'” said Manuel. “It’s just trusting myself and knowing what I can do, because coach (Charlie Johnson) always tells me, ‘Have confidence in yourself, because you can do great things.'”
Here’s what the shot did: ended Senior’s 11-game winning streak, gave West the new longest winning streak in Class AA, and proved to the Bears that they can beat anybody.
“Senior’s a state championship caliber team, and knowing that we can beat a team like that, it’s a lot of confidence for us,” admitted Bears coach Charlie Johnson.
“It’s kind of like winning state for us,” Manuel said. “It was just so nice to beat them, and be 1-1 with them, because now we know we can beat them and we’re going to have that confidence going into tourney time.”
The Bears weren’t going to have any confidence the way Thursday’s game started. Senior scored the first 17 points, forcing Johnson to do something very few coaches can — sub all five starters out at once.
“We can play 11-12 girls,” Johnson said. “I’ll throw any mixture out there, and I thought the girls that got in gave us a real spark.”
“I was just like, ‘What are we doing?'” recalled Manuel. “I knew we were a better team than that. We’ve done great things together, it’s just trusting each other more than anything I’d say.”
The switch worked, as West won the second, third, and fourth quarters, holding Senior to just 33 points the rest of the way.
“What you saw in the second quarter, that’s who we are,” said Johnson, “that’s what I told the girls. Lock down defensively. It’s going to be really tough to beat us.”
All thanks to one basket that changed everything.