BILLINGS – 30 years ago Billings Skyview’s basketball guys were starved for their first Class AA win.
Skyview High School was only two years old, and the varsity Falcons had taken a beating as sophomores and juniors. It wouldn’t get any easier on a cold January night for the Falcons, now showcasing their first senior class, against the defending state champs from Billings Senior just across town.
A year earlier, the game wouldn’t have been in question. It would’ve been the Broncs in a landslide on their way to a State AA championship. But in 1988, things just seemed different leading into their match-up.
“I think so,” said Broncs coach Pat O’Connor a couple hours before tipoff at the Metra. “They have a senior class this year. When those kids were in junior high, seventh and eighth grades, their junior and senior classes did very well in the junior high league. I think with our ball club, we’re going to have a lot of close games and that’s kind of the game I anticipate tonight.”
Styles were completely different between the Broncs and Falcons. Senior a very patient team. Skyview, ready to rebound and run. An execution they knew they had to have bouncing into the defending state champs.
“We have to hit the boards,” said Falcons head coach Kas Ioane. “I saw in the newspaper, Senior out-rebounded a much taller Bozeman team. We out-rebounded Havre 54-27, I think. So if we can get the boards both offensively and defensively, hopefully we’ll be in the right spot tonight.”
The Broncs were cautious about anything the Falcons might enterprise.
“If we can run with them, then we’ll probably run with them,” said O’Connor. “If we can’t, we’ll probably hold the ball up a little bit.”
Ioane had his own strategy in mind.
“We have to outplay them in the middle and also at the point guard,” he said. “They have a very good squad and they’re tough. they’re the defending state champions. We’ve got out work cut out for us.
When asked if his team was finally ready to play Senior — to knock off the state champions — Ioane answered with confidence.
“We would love to do it. This is a big night for us.”
A couple hours later the pace seemed to favor Skyview, but Dan Miller scored in the lane pushing Senior to a 26-19 lead.
The Falcons got up off the deck and answer with a Dave Downer three-pointer, and it was bombs away from outside.
Skyview was within 28-27 at halftime.
“Our style of ball is run and gun basketball and if we maintain that style of play, sooner or later, it’s going to get somebody,” Ioane would say after the game.
In the second half, that style got to the Broncs. Ultimately, turnovers and missed free throws simply killed Senior High.
Jason Kummerfeldt was the go-to-guy on offense as Skyview not only earned its first win over a AA school, but did it against the crosstown champs.
“When you beat a great club and a great coach like Pat O’Connor, the defending state champ, it’s a helluva thrill,” gushed Ioane. “It’s a great victory for Skyview tonight.”
The Falcons would have to grind through almost three decades before winning their first basketball title, boys or girls. It happened in 2015, ironically against another cross-town rival. Skyview beat Billings West 62-56.
The Falcons made it back-to-back State AA titles in 2016 with a 72-56 blowout win over Bozeman.