HELENA — Helena Capital High boys basketball coach Guy Almquist used the first Class AA Western Conference game with Missoula Sentinel as a measuring stick to what his team needed to improve on.
The Bruins overcame trailing 10-point deficit at halftime after scoring only two points in the second period of the first half, and gave themselves an opportunity to win on the final possession of the game.
However, they fell short of their quest for victory in a 33-34 loss to Sentinel on Thursday night at home.
Despite overcoming the early deficit, Almquist would like to see his Bruins improve as they head into the heart of the conference schedule.
"Why we lost, it was very simple," Almquist said. "Nothing mattered except for physical and mental toughness, and they were by far the tougher team in the first half. Our team was not physically tough and we were not mentally tough or prepared for a Western AA Conference battle, and that is what this was."
The Spartans shot 42.4 percent for the entire game and also shot 56.3 percent from the field in the first half.
Sentinel coach Jay Jagelski's team had no players in double figures, and according to Jagelski, the depth and length advantage the Spartans had over the Bruins contributed to the victory.
"I thought we executed very, very well on both ends of the floor, especially on the defensive end," Jagelski said. "I thought we used our length to our advantage. We have a very tall and lanky team, but we knew we would be a bit smaller and we tried to utilize our length as best as we could."
Tony Frohlick-Fair and Scott Malikie led the Spartans with eight points, which showcased the team's depth, according to Jagelski.
"We played 10 guys, and they all contributed in some capacity," Jagelski said. "We had defensive deflections and rebounds. I thought what made the difference in the game was our depth. That is pretty much what we've been doing all games. I thought about trapping the Bruins and going into a zone. Our team was able to hold them by 33 points."
The Bruins struggled from the floor shooting 28.6 percent from the field in the first half and 32.6 percent for the game. In a game decided by one point, they only made 37.5 percent of the team's free throws.
Almquist stated he is not concerned with the Bruins struggles from the free-throw line.
"I think you can worry about free-throw shooting too much," Almquist said. "We will continue to practice and work on them. We have plenty of guys that can make free throws, and that is pretty far down on the list of my concerns at this point."
In spite of the loss, Almquist said he felt his team exhibited character with their fourth-quarter surge in which they outscored the Spartans 11-4.
Bruins player Trevor Swanson scored a team-high 13 points.
Moving forward, Almquist said he expects more poise from his team.
"I was pretty disappointed in our guys in the first half because we didn't show much poise," Almquist said. "Our guys need to toughen up. We didn't do anything different in the second half other than play harder and play with more poise."