BILLINGS — Both Billings Skyview and Billings Central's boys basketball teams are in a state of transition.
Not a bad thing, but more of a statement of how both teams are seeing a lot of new faces in their respective starting lineups.
Skyview, which was third at the Class AA state tournament last season, topped Central 60-53 on Tuesday night at Skyview behind 19 points from senior Jeremiah Warner and 18 points from junior big man Zach Schacht. Both players saw minutes on varsity last year, but like the rest of Skyview's starters on Tuesday night, none started in a game last season.
Schacht is a 6-foot-10 presence down low for the Falcons, and looks more comfortable with handling the ball around the rim and scoring. He threw down two dunks, including an ally-oop tossed by Warner, and also swatted away some Central drives on defense.
As for Warner, it's been an adjustment, but one he embraces.
"It's been difficult trying to find that confidence after being in the shadows of great players like RayQuan (Evans) and Zharon (Richmond) the last few years," Warner said. "Ray definitely made me a better player in practice everyday just having to guard someone that good. That helped me grow as a player."
Warner is stepping in for Evans who was a three-year starter for Skyview. Warner was called on for some late free throws for Skyview, shooting 10 for 13 in the game but eight of which came in the fourth quarter.
"I like to be the man when it comes to the fourth quarter to put in a free throw that we need," he said about the pressure.
Skyview also got 10 points from senior Trey Berry, who knocked down three 3-pointers. Skyview (3-2) recovered after losing to Kelly Walsh (Wyo.) on Saturday.
Skyview coach Kevin Morales said players like Warner, Schacht, and senior Logan DeHaven are now the center of attention after spending last year as backups.
"Now the spotlight is on them. It's a little different from being that backup guy, you can take that backseat," Morales said. "If you make a shot, everybody goes, 'Oh, he made the shot!' Now, the light's on them to bring the ball up the court and hit those open shots and make plays and win games for us at the varsity level and they're handling it great so far."
Central, which for two years in a row has been the Class A runner-up, was led by Sam Gray, who scored 17 points, including 12 straight between the second and third quarter. Gray scored all of Central's second-quarter points while Chrishon Dixon added 16.
Dixon, a junior, is the only returning starter for the Rams. Gray has given the Rams a bigger post presence than a year ago.
"This is a great opportunity for us to get better," Central coach Jim Stergar said. "It's (Sam's) first big minutes at the varsity level and we have high expectations for Sam Gray. He's doing things that we expect because he's a heck of a player and he's only going to get better."
Skyview led by as much as 11 in the third quarter. The Falcons used free throws and layups to keep padding their lead. Dixon got 13 of his points in the fourth quarter as Central attempted a late comeback.
The Rams (3-1) will host Billings West on Thursday. Skyview is off for Christmas break and won't play again until Jan. 4 against Billings Senior.
"We're trying to grow as a team and put together team wins rather than individual play," Warner said. "Coach said the individual success will come with team success."