BILLINGS — The Bozeman girls basketball team competed with eventual Class AA co-champion Billings West last season, losing 58-47 and 37-35 in their two matchups. Considering West graduated most of its main contributors and the Hawks returned most of theirs, they felt hopeful going into their season opener against the Golden Bears on Thursday.
West won 66-32, outscoring the host Hawks 21-5 in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve never lost by 30 in my career, and I’ve definitely never lost by more than 15 to (West coach) Charlie (Johnson),” Bozeman coach Erika Gustavsen said Saturday. “I said to Charlie, ‘Wow, I knew you were going to be good. I didn’t know you were going to be this good this early on.’ ... That was a little bit of a gut check.”
Gustavsen didn’t have to wait long to check her players’ guts. The Hawks played another talented Eastern AA team, Billings Skyview, on Saturday.
In a tight game throughout, Bozeman fended off host Skyview 61-56 for its first win of the season. The Hawks (1-1) showed their coach they can put a jarring loss behind them.
“It’s definitely a boost in confidence,” said Bozeman senior forward Macy Mayer. "We're just looking to keep moving forward and build off this."
Skyview (1-1) opened the second quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 23-17 lead, but it trailed 30-28 going into halftime and 48-44 through three quarters. The Falcons tied it up at 53-53 with about three minutes left. It was all Bozeman after that. The Hawks, who finished 3-1 against Skyview last season, went on a 7-0 run to put the game out of reach.
Junior guard Emily Williams led Bozeman with 17 points, senior wing Gabby Klein had 15 and Mayer added 13 points and 13 rebounds. Klein and Mayer were both all-conference selections last season, and senior Addi Ekstrom earned an all-state honor. But Ekstrom is out after tearing her ACL during soccer season.
“To not have her in the mix, everybody’s kind of adjusting to different roles and step up,” Gustavsen said. “It’s nice to see that the kids are doing that consistently and playing good team basketball.”
Skyview junior guard Brooke Berry scored a game-high 19 points, freshman post Breanna Williams had 14 points and junior guard Cami Harris finished with 10. Berry, who coach Brett Montague called “a Corvette on steroids,” averaged a AA-best 16.1 points per game last season and earned an all-state selection.
“That’s a good bounce back for (Bozeman). It’s a good lesson for us in that this is a toughness game,” Montague said. “We’re going to get back to those basics. I know we’re a tough team. I know we have tough kids. I’ve seen it. I know they have no give up.”
Both the Hawks and Falcons went two-and-out at last season’s State AA tournament, which was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic. Skyview ended a 19-year state drought.