Trying to stage the Billings Senior-Billings West basketball series at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark the past two seasons was a noble effort.
But at least the West girls basketball team is glad to be back on a home-and-home basis after the two-year experiment ended following last season.
The Lady Bears defeated Senior 49-39 Tuesday night before a large crowd at the West gym and though the game was a bit sluggish at times, it was a far cry from the four previous games at Metra: Those final scores were 34-24 and 34-28 in 2006-07 and 31-27 and 40-31 last season.
"The Metra is just a hard place to play," West coach Greta Buehler said after Tuesday night's win. "The shooting was always off and the 31-27 wins are always ugly. It's just nicer to be in a gym. The crowd was nice … the band … it sounded loud.
"And it will be that way at Senior, whereas the Metra was kind of not that atmosphere. So this was a great atmosphere for the kids to play in and enjoy that. I'm real happy that we're back at the high schools."
Two seasons ago a group of local businesses and School District 2 came up with enough money to rent the Metra for two years' worth of the series. Crowds for the boys' games held at the high schools had become so large that it was felt Metra was needed to accommodate the fans and the parking. But the games, which always featured a boys-girls doubleheader, didn't draw much better at Metra, so they were returned to their respective high schools this season.
"I liked going to the Metra, but now that it was here, being on home turf, you've got your crowd, you're used to the gym, I like it," West's Danielle Muri said. "It was nice to be in the Golden Dome."
Billings Skyview has eight wrestlers who have already won 20 matches. Brenna Barta and Tyler Elm own 23-3 marks and Brennan Barta is 23-6.
Shawn Rohrer has won 22 of 27 matches and Kooper Bond has claimed 22 victories in 28 matches. The 20 victory list also includes Joey Mancuso (21-4), Nik Hinebauch (20-2) and Cory Champney (20-7).
Mancuso has the post pins (16) followed by Garrett Bergum (15) and Hinebaugh (15). Barta and Bergum each have 35 takedowns.
West's P.J. Neary has registered 20 wins, Patryk Webster has 18 and David Schmitt 17. Schmitt leads in pins (13), takedowns (51). Webster has 41 takedowns.
Tanner Sprenkle leads Senior with 17 victories, 10 pins and 75 takedowns. Greg Wyatt has six pins among 15 victories. C.J. Ness has 14 wins and eight pins.
Billings Central's Alexsei Grosulak is off to a good start, posting a 21-2 mark.
Boys hoop notes
Kalispell Flathead and Great Falls picked up their first victories over the weekend. Danny Salois nailed a 3-pointer in the final seconds to give the Braves a 67-66 victory over Whitefish. The Bison subdued Havre 72-59 behind 23 points from Dustin Schultz.
Guards Matt Njos and Ben Ternes returned to action for Helena Capital after rehabbing knee injuries. They combined for 18 points in a 58-55 loss to Bozeman.
Ternes hit 5 of 8 shots in the Bruins' 55-29 drubbing of Helena High Tuesday night. Matt Miller scored 15 points and made five steals for Capital which turned the game into a runaway in the third quarter with a 21-3 burst.
Jase Muri is off the injured list for Billings West and saw his first action in Saturday's 57-52 victory at Laurel.
Billings Senior swings back into action Saturday afternoon (2:30 tip off) with a conference game against unbeaten Bozeman (5-0). The Broncs haven't had much success against the Hawks lately, losing eight of the last nine meetings.
Senior's Skyler Dutton is the league's rebounding leader with a 10.6 average. Skyview's Steven Davis leads in field goal percentage with at a sizzling 76 percent. The Falcons' Danny Little is No. 1 in blocked shots at 2.67 per game.
Some Class A teams have had success against AA competition. Bryce Carver's 21 points carried Dillon past Butte 58-45. The Beavers led 25-8 at the half.
Columbia Falls blew past Missoula Big Sky 68-44 as Grant Getts tallied 16 points. The Wildcarts are now 2-1 against AA teams, but the AA holds an overall 13-5 edge over the A so far.
There are times when practice doesn't always help. Take the case of Billings Central, which shot a lot of free throws during the holiday break, but it didn't benefit them in Tuesday's 78-67 loss to Billings Skyview. The Rams made just 16 of 27 attempts and were only 11 of 20 in the second half.
"Free throws just killed us," coach Sheldon Hanser said. "Ironically, before Christmas, we don't have time to shoot free throws and shoot 75 percent as a team. (We) probably shot 1,000 over the break and come out and shoot 55 percent. That's just quality coaching, there I guess, huh?"
The Rams did much better in Tuesday's 57-50 decision of Hardin, going 8-for-11.