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State AA girls: ‘I think we’d be a good match-up,’ Billings West aims to dethrone Helena High

Posted at 3:10 PM, Mar 09, 2019
Billings West’s TyLee Manuel makes a free throw against Kalispell Glacier. (RICHIE MELBY/MTN Sports)

BUTTE – When Billings West and Helena High take the court Saturday night to decide Class AA basketball’s biggest girls game, it’ll look just like they drew it up, right? A battle of preseason favorites.

The Bears dismantled Missoula Hellgate by 20 in Friday’s semifinal. Helena High powered past crosstown Capital by 10.

But good luck trying to predict an outcome. It’ll be the only meeting this season between the Bears and Bengals.

 “I would like to play Helena High,” West forward Tylee Manuel said outside the locker room after Friday’s win. “I think we’d be a good match-up with them. Our twins (Maddie and Willa Albrecht) could guard their twins. Me, hopefully on Jamie (Pickens, Montana’s Gatorade Player of the Year), but just see what we could do. I’m very excited about it, for sure. They have already won two state championships in a row, so to knock them off would be great.”

Helena High won a AA title two years ago by five points, then won by four last March. West didn’t reach either of those Saturday night showdowns.

“It’s a championship game,” West head coach Charlie Johnson said. “These girls have played in multiple championship games in their lives, but only one state title game. I’m sure there’ll be butterflies and nerves but for us, we just need to come out and conduct business as usual.”

“My brother (Kendal Manuel) was in the state championship here four years ago,” Manuel said smiling, “so fast forward, it went by fast and here we are. It’s just a good feeling, so we’re really excited about it.”