BILLINGS — Sequestered in his office watching game film of his next opponent, Billings Skyview boys basketball coach Kevin Morales could tell you there’s no mystery to the Billings West Golden Bears.
He was watching film of the Bears’ most recent game, a 74-43 dismantling of Great Falls CMR last Saturday. In particular, Morales was watching how quickly the Bears (12-1) transitioned to defense after one of their own makes.
“They’re just an animal,” Morales said. “They’re tough to break.”
Something will break Thursday night at West’s Golden Dome. West, No. 2 in the 406mstports.com Class AA rankings and on an 11-game winning streak, will host No. 5 Skyview, itself on a seven-game winning streak. The game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.
In fact, the last time the Falcons (9-4) lost was when they suffered consecutive setbacks against West and Bozeman on Jan. 10-11.
It’s no question, then, that both teams are rolling. And one of the factors to success has been each team’s field-goal defense. Skyview ranks No. 2 in AA, limiting opponents to 38.6% shooting. Opponents shoot 39.1% against the Bears, which ranks third in the state.
Morales was surprised to hear his team was ranked so high. West coach Kelly Darragh, though, said there’s a reason: mainly, but not limited to, the presence of 6-foot-7 rim protector Julius Mims, who averages 2.0 blocks per game.
“They’re a tall team,” Darragh said. “Obviously, the Mims kid is going to adjust a lot of shots. But they’re long defensively in a lot of spots. That’s going to affect the way teams shoot against them.”
West defeated Skyview 60-47 when the teams met a month ago. While West has stayed largely the same team, Skyview’s rotation has changed. Payton Sanders (8.0 points per game) has returned from injury, all while Morales is trying to spread out the minutes more evenly to keep his players fresh.
Will that be enough for Skyview to continue its ascent and end West’s long winning streak? Both coaches are eager to find out.
“It’s going to be a great game,” Darragh said. “They’re playing as good as anybody in the state. We’re in for a battle.”
Said Morales: “We’ve had some good matchups in the past, and this looks like it’s going to be another West High-Skyview classic.”