Somehow, and from somewhere — Billings Senior girls basketball coach Doug Brakke isn’t sure of the details — the Lady Broncs secured a flashlight.
And then the evening that was reserved for a basketball game became something altogether different.
“The lights flickered and then they came back on, and then they went back off,” Brakke said, explaining the night the lights went out at the Missoula Big Sky gym on Friday. “Somehow they got a flashlight out of the crowd and sat around telling campfire stories right on the gym floor. They were enjoying it.”
A snowstorm knocked out the power to the Big Sky gym late in the third quarter of the teams’ season opener. After nearly 30 minutes of waiting, power never was restored, and the Broncs were declared 36-17 winners. Not that Brakke minded, but he would have liked to finish off the game.
“Playing time is important,” he said. “You want to get everybody in, get everybody a look. So, unfortunately, we didn’t get to play a whole game, but the girls played well.”
The Broncs did get to play an entire game the next day, beating Hellgate 56-30, leaving them with a 2-0 record heading into this weekend’s home games against Casper, Wyo., schools Natrona County and Kelly Walsh.
“I thought we did a lot of good things both offensively and defensively,” Brakke said of his team’s two wins. “We sat down and watched film on both games and saw that there were things we need to improve.”
Senior, which was picked to win the Eastern AA by the league’s coaches, will have to work on those improvements without junior guard Jace Henderson. An all-state setter for the Broncs’ State AA championship volleyball team who was just named the Montana Gatorade player of the year, Henderson was invited to participate at the inaugural American Volleyball Coaches Association Phenom College Preparatory Program this weekend in Louisville, Ky.
While there, Henderson will get to demonstrate her volleyball skills in front of the 100 or so college coaches in attendance during college volleyball’s version of the Final Four.
His team might be down a starter this weekend, but Brakke said it also means an opportunity for someone else.
“It gives kids another chance to step in and get a shot to prove what they can do,” he said.
West coach Scott Nichols and Billings Central coach Jeff Malby are both dealing with injuries that have cost seniors valuable playing time before their seasons even began.
Hannah Peretti decided earlier this week that her season would be over after re-injuring her ACL at the Lady Golden Bears first practice last month. She originally hurt the knee last summer, and while the meniscus appeared to be healthy, Nichols said, the ACL was not.
Nichols said Peretti decided to have season-ending surgery.
“She’s a great kid who’s been waiting for this senior season,” said Nichols, who is in his first season at West. “I feel really bad for her. On the other hand, what a mature decision, to take care of her future and her well-being.”
Central’s Hadley Ryan has been a little more fortunate. Ryan suffered her knee injury during practice just days before the Rams were set to open the season last Friday at the Butte Tip-Off.
Malby, though, said Ryan’s injured knee, unlike a lot of ACL injuries, has “a few strands,” of ligament remaining. Ryan and Malby are hoping that, with the help of some rehabbing and a brace, the senior post will be back after the Christmas break. Malby put Ryan’s return as a “75/25” proposition.
The Central coach said it would be great to get Ryan’s rebounding and defensive prowess back into his team’s rotation.
“She’s such a good teammate and leader and we’re missing that right now, besides all the physical stuff she brings to the game,” Malby said. “She paid her dues, and she was really heading toward having a great senior year. She really wants to give it a go.”