BILLINGS – Last year didn’t sit well with Billings West’s girls basketball team.
“We had a sour taste in our mouth,” said West head coach Charlie Johnson.
“We didn’t really get what we wanted,” echoed senior guard Shayla Montague.
The Bears won the Eastern AA and looked like a state tournament favorite. But for the third consecutive year, they lost in the first round.
“You’ve got to move on. If we dwell on last year, that’s not a good thing,” said Johnson. “In order for us to reach the tournament again, we have to be a lot better in a lot of areas.”
And they have been. West is 6-0, outscoring opponents by 25 points per game thanks to possibly the tallest team in the state. The Bears have lots of weapons down low in Maddie and Willa Albrecht and TyLee and TyRaa Manuel. The Albrechts are both 6-foot, while TyLee Manuel is 6-1 and TyRaa Manuel is 5-10.
The 5-11 Montague might be the key, though.
“It’s really fun, especially to trust all of your teammates,” Montague said of West’s depth. “To just count on each other – we can all do something.”
But Montague does something no one else can – she’s the best 3-point shooter in the state, and is leading the Bears at more than 15 points per game. Montague made 15 of 25 3-point attempts in the Bears’ first four games. It’s why MSU Billings wanted her, as well as teammate TyRaa Manuel.
“We just push each other every day,” said Montague. “So when we get to the college level, it’ll be like we were already on a college team.”
West looks like a runaway winner in the East, but last year taught the Bears that means nothing, and they’re ready for that this time.
“This year, our motto is to earn everything, so I think that’s going to really push us,” Montague said.
“We’re going to get every team’s best every night, so it’s not going to be easy, and that’s exciting for us,” added Johnson. “We need to be our best, not right away, but hopefully by season’s end we’re playing our best basketball.”
There’s a scary thought.