HELENA — Helena High boys basketball coach Brandon Day emphasized to his team over the break about finding that statement game as the Bengals team prepared for the second half of the season.
They may have found that statement game sooner than expected with a 50-38 victory over CMR on Thursday night, but Day isn't ready to celebrate his team's achievement quite yet.
"We talked about getting that statement win all week," Day said. "The victory over CMR gets us over the hump. Our team had a great week of practice and hopefully this is the statement game, but we have to play Missoula Sentinel on Saturday. We have to get a little bit better every day."
The Bengals out-rebounded CMR on the glass 28-22, and that was the key to the victory, according to CMR coach John Cislo.
"I thought the Bengals were very aggressive and they exposed a little part of our game," Cislo said. "They out-rebounded us and frustrated us. The way they communicate together as a team, they are going to win a bunch of games."
The Bengals held CMR to a shooting percentage of 39 percent from the floor, 25 percent from the 3-point line and the Rustlers shot 22 percent from the free-throw line.
Bengals senior guard Aidan Brus said he felt stopping CMR's explosive offense, which averaged more than 70 points in the early portion of the season, and holding the Rustlers to 38 points was a collective team effort.
"We came together as a team tonight," Brus said. "We played our game and kind of used our home court to our advantage. We did our own thing, played our game and performed when it mattered. It's a pretty big win and a good start headed into the (conference) season Saturday, and that gives us a boost of confidence."
The Bengals controlled the flow of the game from the opening tipoff, forcing the Rustlers to play at a slower pace then they are accustomed. Helena took a 22-19 lead at halftime, and in the fourth quarter started to gain complete control by outscoring CMR 15-6.
The Bengals allowed only one CMR player to score in double digits and that was Bryce Depping, who finished the night with 11 of the team's 38 points.
Helena's Hayden Ferguson led the team with 11 points, and Connor Murgel finished with nine points.
"Hopefully, we can work on it, learn from it and go from there," Cislo said. "This happened to us last year. We got hammered by Flathead, Great Falls and Billings Senior. Our kids responded, and hopefully we will respond to this loss."
Day said he hopes the Bengals can sustain this momentum as they prepare for a big showdown against Missoula Sentinel Saturday night.
"CMR is a great program and coach Cislo does a wonderful job," Day said. "The big key to winning tonight was that we played our game and our kids were able to take care of business on the boards, causing problems on the on both sides of the ball."