Bozeman takes State (copy)

Bozeman players as the Hawks celebrate their victory in the boys Class AA Montana State Championship in Butte. 

Class AA boys basketball

2018-19 top three: 1) Bozeman 2) Missoula Hellgate 3) Billings West

2019-20 storyline

Behind two Division-I players in Rollie Worster (Utah State) and Abe Johnson (Army), Missoula Hellgate already was an early favorite to make the state championship again.

Then the Knights were able to add the second-leading scorer in Class AA last year, Missoula Big Sky's Cam LaRance. With Worster and LaRance firing from outside the arc, Johnson's inside game and a host of other talented players on the roster, Hellgate has all the pieces to put together a state run this year.

But so does defending champion Bozeman. While the Hawks do lose all-state players in Ryan Simpson and Ryan Lonergan, they bring back a solid crew. Brett Clark, who hit the game-winner to beat Hellgate, was quietly very solid throughout the season and came on strong when injuries took their toll on Bozeman's roster.

Carter Ash, Kenneith Eiden and Hudsen Willett are also players to keep an eye on this season.

Last year's third placer Billings West does lose talented guard Jesse Owens, but brings back its other two top-3 scorers: Cade Tyson (15.4 ppg) and Josh Erbacher (9.8 ppg).

Helena Capital has one of the most intriguing rosters as they look to improve on a 12-11 record that included an 0-2 trip the Class AA tournament. The Bruins return three of its top-five scorers and a defense that allowed just 44.3 points per game in conference contests.

Billings Skyview should have the chance to make some noise in the Eastern AA, especially considering its top-two scorers — Julius Mims and Cam Ketchum — both return.

Mims, the defending state high-jump champion, averaged 11.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks last year and all three of those marks should improve. One of the most exciting athletes in the state, it seems prudent to expect big things from him this year.

The rest? Butte brings back some interesting talent in Tommy Mellott and Jake Olson, as well as a new coach in Matt Luedtke. Belgrade enters its first Class AA season as something of an unknown after finishing 4-16 a year ago.

Billings Senior is also another team to watch, as the Broncs return star guard Junior Bergen and forward Jacksen Burkley.

One big number

38.5: That's how many points per game combined Rollie Worster and Cam LaRance scored last year during the regular season. The pair are now teammates at Hellgate for the first time — LaRance was formerly across town at Big Sky. 

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Jordan Hansen covers a bunch of stuff for the Missoulian and 406 Sports. Shout at him on Twitter @jordyhansen or shoot him an email at Jordan.Hansen@406mtsports.com

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