Billings Skyview vs. Billings West

Billings West's Kaitlin Grossman races up court against Billings Skyview in girls Eastern AA basketball at the West gym on Friday.

BILLINGS — Bella Murphy and Charlie Johnson agreed without really agreeing.

Yes, both player and coach said, the third-ranked Billings West girls basketball team had a dose of extra inspiration for Friday's game against No. 4 Billings Skyview.

But Johnson, the Golden Bears' eighth-year coach, said it wasn't the word "Skyview" printed across the opponents' jersey that elicited that extra burst of motivation. Any intra-city game does that to his team, he said.

Ask Murphy, though, and the Bears' 67-43 drubbing of the Falcons was indeed Skyview specific.

After all, prior to Friday’s contest, West’s closest game was a three-point victory over the Falcons nearly a month ago. Other than that one game, no team has been within 27 points of the Bears (9-0).

“We wanted to kind of show that, you know, last time it was close and it’s not going to be like that again,” said Murphy, a junior. “So I definitely think that was a big part of it, and everyone did a really good job.”

The teams traded baskets for the first three minutes of the game. But a 3-pointer from Layla Baumann started the Bears on 28-10 run for the remainder of the first half and a 34-16 intermission lead. The game was pretty much over at that point.

“We just flat out got boat-raced,” Skyview coach Brent Montague said. “I mean, I don’t know what else to say about it. They’re really good, and when you’re playing a team like that, you’ve got to be playing your best and hope maybe they’re even off a little bit, and that certainly wasn’t the case tonight.”

Taylee Chirrick scored a game-high 17 points, and Kaitlin Grossman and Sydney Pierce both added 10 points. The Bears had been shorthanded recently due to COVID-19 contact tracing, but they were back to full strength Friday, though the rotations were slightly different to get affected players back into their groove.

Changes to the rotation hardly mattered. West’s up-tempo, in-the-face defensive style still payed dividends. The Bears had 18 steals and forced 24 turnovers overall, and they shot 57% from the floor, including making 6 of 13 3-point attempts.

West is 3-0 in its intra-city games, with one more remaining against Senior.

“One of the things that we’ve always prided ourselves in since I’ve been here is talking about being city champs,” said Johnson, whose team extended its winning streak over to Skyview to 18 in a row. “We want to lay claim to the best brand of basketball as far as the city of Billings.

“So it’s great when Skyview is good and Senior is good and when we can say that so far, we’ve beaten those teams, it’s an honor. And the girls were excited for that.”

Brooke Berry had 15 points and Breanna Williams added 14 for the Falcons (6-3), who saw their five-game winning streak stopped. Cami Harris added 10 points for the Falcons.

Both teams are back on their home courts on Saturday. West will put its perfect record up against No. 4 Bozeman, while the Falcons look to bounce back against Bozeman Gallatin.

“I told the kids we’re erasing this one out of our memory,” Montague said. “There’s not enough time for emotions and feelings and all that kind of stuff. You can’t be feeling sorry for yourself. You got your butt kicked, you have to take it a little bit, take your medicine and you better be ready to go at 4 o’clock tomorrow because we’ve got work to do.”

Email Mike Scherting at mike.scherting@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsSchert

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