BILLINGS — Basketball fans got an early look at the the Billings West backcourt duo of Cade Tyson and Jesse Owens last year.
The two underclassman were both thrown into the fire as starters at a young age, with Owens beginning last year as a sophomore and Tyson getting the nod midway through the year as a freshman.
Now a junior and sophomore, the two are beginning to click even more. And on Friday night against Billings Skyview, that talent and ability was on full display.
West defeated Skyview 69-54 in Eastern AA boys basketball in the second Crosstown Classic of the year at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark. Owens led all scorers with 25 points, while Tyson added 19.
West started stagnantly, leading 23-21 at half. But Owens and Tyson both combined for 33 of their points in the second half to lead the Golden Bears.
"We're friends off of the court, too, so I feel like that helps us a lot," Owens said. "So when we get onto the court it's just like second-nature and we both have a good basketball IQ, so it just comes natural."
The pair combined for five 3-pointers. Owens had an eight-point third quarter that helped separate West from Skyview.
The real damage was done in the fourth quarter. Owens contributed to seven of West's first 10 points as the Bears stretched their lead. Nine of Tyson's points came in the final period.
With Skyview's 6-foot-10 junior Zach Schacht, the Golden Bears were at a bit of a disadvantage in terms of size. However, their posts and guards swarmed Schacht whenever they got a chance and held him to three points. Skyview's guard play kept them in the game as Logan DeHaven scored 19 points and Jeremiah Warner added 14.
"We knew we had to have backside help and we had to play physical in there," Owens said. "We were in foul trouble because we were playing so physical, but we knew we had to have backside and that was the game plan."
The win was a bounce-back for West (4-3), which dropped its first game back from Christmas break on Tuesday against Bozeman.
"I think our guards are pretty amazing," West coach Kelly Darragh said. "I think when you spread the court out, I don't think there's too many kids in the state that are going to stay in front of Jesse and Cade."
West also got a group effort on defense and forced Skyview to turn it over frequently.
"Our defense with Ben Tallman, Si Ryan, Carson Prokop and Cole DeVries, we just keep running guys at them and we do that press," Darragh said. "Just little organized chaos, and sometimes we don't know what the heck we're doing. But they're a resilient group and they're a team and play as a team."
West will take on Billings Senior next Thursday in the third Crosstown Classic while Skyview (3-4) will host both of the Great Falls schools next Friday and Saturday.
"West came out to play. Credit to them, they had a great game," Skyview coach Kevin Morales said. "I don't feel like we fed (Schacht) early. I don't think we got any guard penetration to any kick-downs. We shot 2 for 15 from three. That just isn't going to cut it. We have to get that inside-out look. ... We weren't running our stuff very effectively."