BILLINGS — Golden Bears, apparently, don’t forget. To put it more accurately, Billings West girls basketball coach Charlie Johnson wouldn’t let his team forget.
The last time the Bears visited Billings Senior’s gym in late February of last year, the Broncs put an end to West’s unbeaten streak of 11 games to start the season with a one-point win.
So, in preparation for the programs’ first intra-city matchup of the season on Friday night at Senior, Johnson showed his team clips of that Broncs’ win and played the Senior fight song during practices throughout the week.
Johnson said he was simply trying to remind his team what they’d be in for, giving his team a little extra motivation.
“Diving for loose balls, being physical, all the small things you need to do to win basketball games Senior High does,” Johnson said after his Bears rolled through the Broncs 68-37. “In order to beat them, you have to play well offensively and defensively and you have to do the little things.”
The Bears didn’t just do the little things. They did all the things. The Broncs did, as well. At first.
But after a 16-14 West lead in the first quarter — courtesy of a Halle Haber 3-pointer at the buzzer — the Bears went on to outscore Senior 52-23 over the final 24 minutes. That included a 25-5 run in the third quarter that essentially ensured the Bears would remain undefeated this time when they exited its rival school’s building.
Sydney Pierce, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, drilled four 3-pointers on her way to a game-high 18 points. Pierce was the state’s top 3-pointer shooter percentage-wise last season (23 of 51 for 45%) but she’s struggled this season, making just 1 of 7 before Friday night.
Needless to say, her performance against the Broncs was a good sign for her and the Bears.
“I was in volleyball season all year, so it takes a little bit to find your rhythm,” said Pierce, who had a handful of blocks, as well. “I think I’m ready to go shoot more 3s. This is the game that it finally clicked and I’m happy it did.”
Taylee Chirrick added 16 points on a couple 3-pointers, and she played a big defensive role by helping contain Lauren Cummings, who had a total of 45 points her previous two games.
No Bronc reached double digits, though, as Senior was held to its second-lowest point total of the season.
In all, West buried nine 3-pointers from four players and 11 players overall scored. The Bears, the No. 1 team in the latest 406mtsports.com rankings, improved to 7-0 and 3-0 in the Eastern AA. They beat Senior for the 28th time in the last 34 meetings.
“We were just really on tonight,” Chirrick said. “It was a good cross-town game to have that happen, just with the crowd we had today. It’s kind of the first time we’ve had a big crowd like this so it made it a lot more fun.”
Allie Cummings hit three 3-pointers in the first half for all of her team-high nine points. Brenna Linse added eight and Lauren Cumming finished with seven.
While the Broncs fell to 3-4 overall and 2-1 in the conference in decisive fashion, Connor Silliker couldn’t really find fault with his team. Not on a night when West played as well as it did.
Silliker detailed the Broncs’ attempts to play a zone defense, then their attempts to play man-to-man, then maybe back to a zone. In the end, the Senior coach just simplified things.
“You just kind of get to a point where you have to pick your poison somewhere,” Silliker said. “And that’s unfortunately … what I’m saying is they’re pretty damn good and they don’t have a weakness. That’s pretty much what I’m getting at.”
These teams meet again on Feb. 11. It’ll be the Broncs’ turn to remember, unless this is one they’ll want to forget.