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Coaches shake up rankings in Class AA basketball polls

Posted at 12:30 PM, Jan 16, 2019
Missoula Hellgate boys basketball coach Jeff Hays (center) instructs the Knights during the 2018 Class AA state tournament in Billings. (RICHIE MELBY/MTN Sports)

As the Class AA conference basketball schedules heat up, coaches are beginning to learn more about their league rivals. In the second edition of the MTN Sports Class AA basketball coaches polls, coaches moved a few teams around in the rankings — though Missoula Hellgate’s boys and Helena High’s girls maintained their strong positions at the top of the polls.

Jeff Hays’ Knights took nine of 10 first-place votes in the boys poll and have proven to be Class AA’s team to beat. They went 3-0 last week, winning each game by at least 19 points.

Bozeman, which is coming off an impressive 75-60 win over Billings Skyview, nabbed the other first-place vote. Great Falls High moved up one spot to No. 3, dropping Skyview to fourth. The Bison rallied past defending state champion Great Falls CMR for a 43-41 win in the teams’ first crosstown game of the season on Jan. 10. Bozeman plays the Great Falls schools — CMR on Friday and GFH on Saturday — this weekend.

Billings West made its debut in the top five at fifth, replacing CMR, which fell into the “receiving votes” category. The Golden Bears are set to meet Skyview in a top-five matchup on Thursday.

In the girls rankings, Eric Peterson’s Helena High squad is one of three undefeated teams remaining. The Bengals received six first-place votes with the other first-place vote going to Billings West, which inched ahead of Helena Capital for the No. 2 ranking in this week’s poll.

The Bengals and Bruins both improved to 8-0 last week, setting up a highly anticipated crosstown matchup this week. Capital is at Helena High on Friday with tipoff slated for 7:30 p.m.

West, meanwhile, has been nothing short of dominant in recent weeks as it has surged to the top of the Eastern AA standings. The Golden Bears will face one of their biggest conference challengers on Saturday when they visit Butte, which moved into the top five of the poll this week. The Bulldogs tied Kalispell Glacier for fourth in the rankings, while Bozeman fell into the “receiving votes” category.

The complete Class AA basketball coaches polls are below. Coaches submitted their ballots to MTN Sports, excluding their own teams from the rankings.

Class AA boys basketball coaches poll — Jan. 16, 2019

1. Missoula Hellgate (7-1) — 45 points (9 first-place votes)
2. Bozeman (6-1) — 37 (1)
3. Great Falls High (6-1) — 24
4. Billings Skyview (5-2) — 19
5. Billings West (4-3) — 15

Receiving votes: Great Falls CMR (6-2), Missoula Sentinel (4-3).

Class AA girls basketball coaches poll — Jan. 16, 2019

1. Helena High (8-0) — 30 points (6 first-place votes)
2. Billings West (7-0) — 23 (1)
3. Helena Capital (8-0) — 22
T4. Butte (4-2) — 11
T4. Kalispell Glacier (5-2) — 11

Receiving votes: Bozeman (3-4), Missoula Hellgate (4-4), Missoula Sentinel (3-4).