BILLINGS — There’s the Billings West boys basketball team that’s been on the floor for virtually the entire season, and then there’s the Golden Bears’ squad that dominated for 16 minutes Thursday night.
So with three games left in the regular season, there’s versions of what the Bears have been and there’s a version of the potential they think they have. Buoyed by a 60-45 win over Billings Senior at the West gym, the Bears hope it’s the latter.
“That second half is the team we could be,” West coach Kelly Darragh said. “Now, I wouldn’t say that’s the team we are yet, because we haven’t done it consistently enough. But if we can put it together and play like that, we’re going to be tough to beat.”
For the first half of Thursday’s game, things looked like it would be a repeat of Senior’s 53-48 win earlier this season. The Broncs were efficient on offense, and were enough of a road block on defense to lead the Bears 25-20.
The Broncs’ lead could have been more, too. West’s Payton Williams blocked Reagan Walkers’ layup attempt just before the buzzer, a play that both coaches mentioned as a momentum changer.
But West’s Neil Daily hit an early bucket out of halftime and Teagan Mullowney followed with another. A few minutes later Daily hit the first of his two 3-pointers and the first of the Bears’ four in the quarter, and West was on its way.
The Bears outscored Senior 40-20 in the second half. Four times this season West has scored fewer than 50 points in a game, and its last time out a week ago, West scored 36 points in a loss to Billings Skyview.
“We have a bunch of guys who can score 10 points a game, we just don’t have that one guy who is going to score 20,” said Daily, who is headed to Montana State to play football. “So if we all can just put in our part and do our job, get our points, we should be pretty competitive with everybody.”
Daily finished with a game-high 14 points, 12 of them in the second half. Taco Dowler came off the bench for 13 points. Three other players scored at least seven.
Senior was led by Junior Bergen’s 13 points. The loss was the second in a row to an intra-city foe. After giving up 10 3-pointers to Billings Skyview in a 72-45 loss on Tuesday, the Broncs allowed six 3s to the Bears.
“Honestly, I think it was (the Bears’) energy in the second half,” Senior coach Drew Haws said. “They just came out with more energy than we did. I didn’t look at the book, but I know they hit a bunch of 3s. Two games in a row, it’s getting to be something defensively, or energy, but it’s something that we have to do better as a team.”
The win left West (5-6) one game behind Senior (6-5) for the final home playoff spot. No matter how it ends up, it’s likely the Bears and Broncs will be playing each other in the one-and-done game for a spot in the state tournament.
As for which team the Bears will be by then? Who knows? Darragh, for one, is keeping the faith.
“If we can put four quarters together I still think we can beat anybody,” he said. “I still think that, and I still think that we’re going to win a state championship this year.”