HELENA — There was no disputing Helena High basketball player Jamie Pickens was the significant difference in the 43-27 victory Thursday night at.
Pickens nearly outscored the over-matched Bison by herself in a 23-point, 17-rebound performance.
"Jamie is the best player in the state in any class," Bison coach Jerry Schmitz said. "We tried to neutralize her a little bit, but we didn't do an excellent job. We let her have too many easy shots, and with a player like that, you have to make her work for everything she gets."
In spite of Picken's double-double performance, Bengals coach Eric Peterson said his team showed a lot its needs to improve on heading into the break.
The Bengals shot 37 percent from the floor and only 16.7 percent from the 3-point line.
"I thought overall, we took a little step back tonight and weren't crisp on offense," Peterson said. "We missed a bunch of easy shots that we normally make. I thought Great Falls played some good defense on us. We have to play better offensively than we normally have been."
Helena High forced Great Falls into 20 turnovers in the game.
"They were aggressive, and we were tentative," Schmitz said. "We didn't take care of the basketball in the first half, and they had 11 turnovers. That was part of why we lost. They were aggressive, and we were passive."
The Bison, coming off of a four-game road trip including playing games in Kalispell, Glacier, Flathead and Missoula Sentinel, will now have time to recover during the break, Schmitz said.
Great Falls was only outscored 23-20 in the second half, but a late third-quarter surge wasn't enough.
"We started to take care of the basketball and got some high percentage shots (in the second half)," Schmitz said. "We played like we did in practice and made seven foul shots. We've just got to get better as individuals and as a team. In the third quarter we did that, and that made a difference for us."
The Bengals had contributions from Abby Marcille, who finished with nine points, and she and Pickens combined outscored the Bison 32-27.
Still, Peterson, whose team has won two consecutive Montana High School Class AA titles, sees room for improvement.
"I thought we gave some opportunities away, and we didn't make a lot of shots," Peterson said. "It is still December so I don't expect us to play perfect, but I expect us to play to our standard. I didn't think we did that tonight."