HELENA -- The Capital High and Helena boys basketball teams kick off their seasons on the road Tuesday, with the Bruins traveling to Bozeman and the Bengals making the trip to Butte.
Last year, CHS missed the State Tournament for just the third time in 11 seasons under coach Guy Almquist.
The Bruins went 3-18, and return just one starter to the floor this winter, in senior Matt McGinley. A 5-foot-11 wing guard, last year McGinley averaged 7.2 points per game and led the team with 34 3-point field goals (14th in the state) and 1.6 assists per game. He was also third on CHS with 16 steals.
A few of the brown-and-gold’s top varsity players are senior Michael Nettleton; juniors Cade Kidder, Alaric Greil and Peyton Koch; and sophomores Brider Grovom and Parker Johnston. Johnston scored 35 points last year.
Senior Conor McCarvel, who averaged 3.5 points and fired in 16 field goals from 3-point land, is recovering from football injuries and is expected to return in January.
“We’re a young team, but a team that is passionate about each other and getting better. Our goal needs to be becoming the best version of us that we can be from day one,” related Almquist, who owns a career record of 158-98. “We’ll need to be a team that’s able to get out in transition and spread the floor offensively to create shots for each other, and defensively we’ll need to be versatile, as we may have matchup issues versus certain teams.”
The Bruin skipper said his cagers “have good quickness, so we’ll look to pressure the ball a tad more than we have in the past,” both in the half and full court.
“Most importantly, we don’t have great size so extra focus and energy are a must in terms of rebounding the ball,” Almquist added.
The Bengals, who finished at 6-15 last year and did not qualify for state, will take the floor this season under the direction of a new head coach.
Brandon Day, a former HHS hoopster and longtime assistant, replaced John Hollow, who resigned last spring.
Helena returns a pair of starters to the lineup, consisting of juniors Alex Johnson and Connor Murgel.
Murgel, a 5-10 guard, was the red-and-white’s second-leading scorer as a sophomore last year, averaging 7.2 points. He was No. 1 on the squad with 1.8 assists per game, and was second with 20 steals.
Johnson, a 6-2 forward/guard, averaged 2.6 points and 2.1 boards.
Rounding out the starting lineup are the lone seniors, Dawson Tedesco and Caleb Ferguson, and junior Holden Sampson.
Among the returning lettermen are juniors Jacob Howell and Grady Koenig.
Josiah Shelley is the only senior reserve, while Tre Tintinger, a 6-4 sophomore post, is the reigning state high jump champ and all-class record-holder.
“We are an athletic team with very hard-working individuals,” related coach Day. “Lack of experience is probably our biggest weakness.”