Things rarely are easy in the Billings Senior-Billings West girls basketball rivalry, so when West grabbed a double-digit lead midway through the third quarter Tuesday night, the Lady Bears knew what was coming.
The inevitable Senior rally came, but West had the answer and walked out of the Senior gym with a 43-35 Eastern AA victory, the Lady Bears' fifth in a row in the intracity series.
West led 34-21 with 2:50 left in the third quarter before Senior closed the deficit to 37-35 on a basket by Kathryn Newman with 3:59 remaining in the game. That was it, though. Senior didn't score again, while West went 6 of 10 from the foul line to seal the win.
"We tend to do that, it's kind of our legacy that's not very good," West's Alex Black said of her team's propensity to let teams back into games. "The good thing about it being our legacy is we know how to handle it now."
Black had a team-high 13 points, eight of which came in the first half to help the Lady Bears to a 24-15 halftime lead. Danielle Muri added 12 points and seven rebounds, while Olivia Pierce-Eiselein had seven rebounds and four blocks.
West (9-3 overall, 5-1 Eastern AA) got back into the win column one game after losing its six-game winning streak in a loss to Butte on Friday.
"This was definitely nice because it was the Senior game, a big rivalry," said West's Kacie Hutton, who helped cinch things up by making 3 of 4 free throws and getting a steal in the game's final minutes. "It's good to get back on the winning side."
For Senior, the loss was its fifth in a row. Despite nearly a 13-minute stretch in the first half where they didn't make a field goal, the Lady Broncs made a game of it but went stagnant at the end.
"Right now we're just kind of struggling to get over that hump and get a win against a good team," said Senior coach Amy Pfeifle, whose team dropped to 4-7 and 1-4.
Newman was 6-for-9 from the floor for 13 points to be the only Senior player in double figures, and Kylie Kufeld scored all seven of her points in the third quarter to help fuel the second-half rally. But once Senior got to within 37-35 on Newman's last basket, West limited the Lady Broncs to 0-for-5 shooting from the floor and two turnovers in the game's final four minutes.
"Senior's a quality team, it's not like they're going to roll over and die," West coach Greta Buehler said. "I'm glad that we regrouped and pulled it out."