MISSOULA — Both the Missoula Hellgate boys and girls and Missoula Big Sky, for that matter, reveled in an upcoming winter break to build on a short and unofficial first half of the season.
The Knights' practices will have just a little more holiday cheer, however, as they swept the first iteration of crosstown basketball Thursday night at Big Sky's gym. The Hellgate boys — backed by a 32-point performance from Griz recruit Rollie Worster — topped the Eagles, 69-42.
The girls of Hellgate utilized a near triple-double performance from 6-foot-1 junior Kylie Lunday in a 60-39 win against their crosstown foe. Two other Knights, Shay Evans and Kaitlin Olson, reached double figures in the victory.
"We needed a win, we had a good week of practice; we're still trying to figure out how to get the ball in the hole... but the girls gave 110 percent," Hellgate coach Rob Henthorn said. "...Now we're going to enjoy the holidays, start practice next week and try to work the kinks out."
They'll get to work with a check in the win column, too, the Knights' first this season (1-3 overall, 1-0 in conference).
Missoula Hellgate 60, Missoula Big Sky 39
Lunday set the tone in the paint for the Knights from the get-go. She had a put-back bucket to open the game, blocked a shot and capped a 7-0 run all within the game's first 1 minute, 41 seconds.
She finished the night with a co-team-high 13 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks.
"Kylie, I’ll say it over and over — she’s a beast," Henthorn said of his post. "She’s a beast, she has a nose for the ball, she wants the ball, she is our go-to girl and now she just wants to get better."
Even with the early Hellgate run, Big Sky battled back to a 15-11 deficit at the end of the first quarter. Chasity Foote connected on one of her two 3-pointers in the game with 1:15 remaining in the quarter to pull within three, 14-11.
The Eagles again trailed by just three points at the 5:38 mark of the second quarter, as Sydnee Zanto forced a steal and was fouled on her transition shot attempt.
She knocked down both free throws — Zanto was 8 for 10 from the line — and her Eagles were down just one possession, 19-16.
Zanto's effort at the line paid off, too. The senior shared the team scoring lead with senior Ty McGreevey at 12 points for the game.
"Those two stepped up and scored the basketball and that's what we need," Big Sky coach Michela Anderson said after the game.
However, the Knights stormed back on a 12-2 run to close the half. Lunday drew three fouls in the stretch and scored four points.
"I really appreciate my team and all the help I get because I couldn't do it without all their great passes and us all working together," Lunday said, deflecting praise.
She deferred some scoring in the stretch, too. Olson, a senior, canned a 3-pointer to take a 23-16 lead midway through the second period and Severine Armstrong added another triple with 26 seconds remaining in the half. Olson finished with 12 points; Armstrong had seven.
Then Evans helped keep Big Sky at bay on the scoreboard in the second half, scoring nine of her 13 points in the final 16 minutes.
The Eagles played shorthanded as handful of varsity players were not dressed out Tuesday. Coach Anderson said she expects them back after the break.
The vacancy created an opportunity for freshman Avery McGuirl, who provided the Big Sky bench with some of their biggest cheers of the night. In her first varsity minutes, McGuirl had three rebounds in the fourth quarter — one a put-back bucket that gave McGuirl the first points of her career.
"She stepped in, we needed her, she stepped up and that's a positive thing," Anderson said.
That positivity is a perfect recipe for the holiday season as Big Sky (0-5) builds for after the break.
Missoula Hellgate 69, Missoula Big Sky 42
A shootout in the second quarter between Big Sky's Camdyn LaRance and Hellgate's Worster provided the tempo for the Knights to ultimately surge in the second half, Knights coach Jeff Hayes believed.
"(It was a) slow-paced game, low scoring, low possessions and (LaRance) hit some shots; we hit some shots and it kind of just picked up the energy for everybody," Hayes said.
"When that happened, it created a tempo that we were striving for."
LaRance did his damage from beyond the arc in the second quarter, when the sophomore drilled three 3-pointers. He had four on the game and finished with a team-high 16 points for the Eagles (0-5, 0-1).
But Worster struck back with a pair of treys and scored 16 points in the second quarter alone.
"It was a great experience going back and forth at each other in the first half, but we just fell apart in the second half," Big Sky's LaRance said of the run. "But we'll get it back together now going into break."
Bridger Deden added another 12 points for Hellgate, connecting on a 3-pointer himself in the second half, and the Knights (3-1, 1-0) used a devastating trapping defense to steam to the win.