HELENA – It’s called March Madness for a reason. Anything can happen at a state tournament, but all 16 teams on the boys and girls side have the same goal in mind, to bring home that state title.
Last year the Helena High Bengals left the court as the top team in the AA and this time around the team looks a little different, with a lot of younger players, but the championship approach remains the same.
“Just staying in the moment is the biggest thing,” said Junior Jamie Pickens who was part of the championship team last year. “You can get caught up in all the fans there and people there watching you. But I think that staying in the moment and taking it step by step and wining game by game each day is the most important thing. Just staying in the moment.”
“I think they’re pretty much business as usual,” added head coach Eric Peterson. “I think they’re kind of disappointed they didn’t come out with the first place trophy at divisionals but, you know they’re looking forward to this weed for sure. This is what we’ve been waiting for all year and you know, it’s been a fun year and we’ve been really working hard to get to this point and we have to work hard and now we’re excited to be in the a position where we’re at and hoping to move forward and get three wins.”
Across town, the Helena Capital girls are no stranger to state hardware, winning it all back in 2015 But after coming up short twice since then the Bruins are hungry to show what they can do this weekend.
“They’re very excited and everybody should be excited,” said head coach Bill Pilgeram. “But I also think they’re motivated, both by the loss Friday night in crosstown. We want to see them again hopefully and it would be a Saturday night thing which would be exciting. But also motivated from last year and their finish in that. To go out there and do a better job than we did last year.”
“Just being there as a team is really cool first of all, added Kacie Gross. “But also just coming out and showing what we can do again and showing what kind of basketball team we’ve improved since the beginning of the season.”
The most surprising tournament ticket this season might have to go to the Helena High guys. Who won their win into the Rimrock Auto Arena with a gauntlet of victories at divisionals. And for a program that hasn’t won it all since 91′ the guys are hoping to be this years Cinderella at the big dance in Billings.
“The biggest thing with these guys is they have to understand they have the opportunity to do something that has not been done in a few years,” said boys head coach Brandon Day. “And that they need to come in and compete just like it was any other game and just try to maintain that focus is our goal for this tournament.”
“We’re really excited to come here from starting off in 6th place and make it to state,” sophomore Hayden Ferguson told us. “It’s been our goal all year. We’re always talking about never being satisfied until we make it and now we’re not going to be satisfied until we win. Everyone’s happy, it’s a great time.”
The Class AA state tournament starts Thursday in Billings. See who’s playing who this week by checking out the links for the Boys and Girls tournament pairings.