Billings Central vs. Hardin

Hardin's Kylee Old Elk tries to dribble past Billings Central's Solei Elletson at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark in Billings on Jan, 24, 2020. The Bulldogs and Rams will face off at Metra again on Friday night.

BILLINGS — Eastern A rivals Billings Central and Hardin will face each other for the first time this basketball season in a doubleheader Friday night at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.

The girls will tip off at 6 p.m., and the boys will follow around 7:30.

The girls game pits defending Class A state co-champions against each other, and both look more than capable of returning to the title stage this season.

Central has been No. 1 and Hardin has been No. 2 in the Class A girls rankings all season. The Rams (8-0) are outscoring their opponents 56-26.6 per game, while the Bulldogs (6-0) have a 59.2-39.7 per game scoring margin.

Basketball is "more than a sport" to Native Americans in Montana. But Native Americans have been disproportionately devastated by COVID-19. Many involved with Native basketball programs hope this season will not face any major COVID-related obstacles.

The Central and Hardin boys began the season at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, but they both enter Friday's game unranked.

The Rams (6-2) lost to Laurel 46-40 on Jan. 15 at Metra and to Lewistown 68-61 four days later at home.

After defeating Class B No. 1 Lodge Grass 63-56 on Jan. 13 at Metra, Hardin (3-3) dropped three straight games — to Lewistown, Laurel and Miles City. The Bulldogs finished last season undefeated with a co-state title.

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