(Editor’s note: This is the third of four installments looking at which teams have built the best bodies of work during the first month of the 2018-19 high school basketball season. These are not rankings — although many of the top-ranked teams will be featured here — but an analysis of schedules and strength of victories. The 2018 portion of the schedule concluded on Dec. 22, and the 2019 schedule starts as early as Jan. 3. For the Class AA breakdown, please click here. For the Class A breakdown, please click here. For the Class C breakdown, please click here.)
The first four weeks of the high school basketball season have seen some great matchups in Class B. The Big Timber boys have a pair of victories over two of the top teams in the state and look like a force in the Southern B.
Wolf Point looks like the team to beat on the girls side of Class B, but the Wolves were nearly taken down by Harlem and Malta, both of which have picked up impressive wins before the calendar turns to 2019. However, while those teams battle in District 2B, Columbus has quietly put together an unbeaten record.
Boys: Big Timber
Big Timber returns a load of experience from last year’s team that played in the semifinals of the Southern B divisional tournament. The Herders got started on the right foot this season, beating one of the Northern B’s best, Fairfield, at the Imerys Classic in Three Forks. Fairfield finished third in the Northern B last season and is among the favorites to advance to the state tournament this season. Big Timber’s performance was impressive, as it was the aggressor in getting to the basket and imposed its will on the glass.
But the Herders weren’t done with a tough weekend at the Imerys Classic, as they played host Three Forks the following night. Three Forks was the Southern B champion last season and is again among the favorites in the Southern B this season, but Big Timber nipped the Wolves by two.
The two games at the Imerys Classic were won in vastly different ways. Against Fairfield, Big Timber scored 70 points in what was nearly a track meet. Against Three Forks, the Herders scored just 44 points but were able to hold the high-powered Wolves offense to 42. Big Timber’s ability to win in multiple ways is just one component of what makes it so dangerous. The Herders have four players that can fill it up on any night, including Kell Schwers and Ethan Bullock, Big Timber’s two leading scorers.
Honorable mentions: Colstrip, Bigfork, Missoula Loyola
The Columbus girls failed to make the Southern B divisional tournament last season, but the Cougars have made a statement in the first few weeks of the 2018-19 season. Columbus has increased its win total each of the past three seasons and is primed to do so again this year.
It’s been stifling defense leading the way for the Cougars to this point. Columbus has held three opponents to less than 35 points this season, including Class A foe Laurel, which the Cougars beat by one point. The win over Laurel is more impressive considering the Locomotives knocked off last year’s Class A runner-up, Hardin.
Columbus has also blown out the two conference foes it has faced to this point. The Cougars held Shepherd to 25 points in a 36-point win and Joliet to just 18 points in a 21-point win. With all-state senior Alexa Riveland and Breanna Rouane leading the way, Columbus will be a team to keep an eye on in the Southern B as the season continues.
Honorable mentions: Wolf Point, Malta, Townsend, Missoula Loyola