Subscribe for 17¢ / day

HELENA — The Helena High girls basketball team found its rhythm headed into the postseason.

Missoula Big Sky, however, must locate its momentum in practice leading into the AA Western Conference divisional tournament.

Helena dominated Saturday afternoon's regular season finale against the Eagles at home on the way to a 76-31 victory.

"Today was a good day for Senior night," Helena coach Eric Peterson said. "We beat them the first time by only six points at their place, and we thought we could play better. We came out ready to play, and we shot the ball well."

The Bengals (16-2, 10-2) raced out to a 10-0 lead, thanks to a full-court press used the first quarter, and kept going. They led 34-10 after the first quarter, 51-20 at halftime and 70-29 after the third quarter.

Helena forced Big Sky into 31 turnovers, which led to easy buckets in transition. The Bengals, in turn, took care of the ball. They committed only nine turnovers.

Their aggressive style confused the Eagles. Big Sky struggled to move the ball beyond halfcourt when the Bengals applied pressure.

Jamie Pickens led the way for Helena with 19 points and seven rebounds. Kamden Hilborn scored 15 points, Emily Feller had 12 and McKayla Kloker added 10.

The Bengals not only scored on the easy fast-break layups, they hit seven 3-pointers. Passes were crisp as Hilborn ran the offense, occasionally completing scoring plays with behind-the-back passes.

Julia Riekena had a stellar game for the Eagles (3-15, 2-10). She scored 16 points and pulled down nine boards. Sydney Zanto was the next best scorer with eight points.

"Helena is a really good team, and they shot the ball lights out," Big Sky coach Michela Anderson said. "But our kids didn't quit."

Both teams begin the divisional tournament Thursday at Capital High. Helena earned the No. 2 seed and Big Sky takes No. 6.

A top-four finish in the seven-team tournament sends teams into the state tournament.

The entire Western Conference is in the tournament, so everyone has an opportunity to advance if they play well starting Thursday.

"We will celebrate 16-2 (record) tonight and then it's 0-0 next week," Peterson said. "The girls are playing loose and with confidence at the right time. We feel good about it. We feel we can play with anybody"

Big Sky hopes to regroup this week in practice and see what it can do at divisionals. Anderson didn't feel Saturday's showing was indicative of her team.

"They have put it all together this year," Anderson said. "When we get to districts, it will be a different ball game. Anything can happen. We just have to keep playing hard."

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.