The biggest Class AA boys game of the week is set for tonight when Billings West travels to Bozeman. The Bears are 5-1 overall and 1-0 in the Eastern AA. The Hawks have an umblemished 7-0 mark, which includes a 1-0 league record.
"They have quite a bit of talent," West coach Doug Robison said. "They're tall, quick and they're 7-0. They're playing more uptempo and picking up more fullcourt defensively. It's important that we defend well because they don't have one person you can key on."
Robison said rebounding will be a big factor.
"We've haven't rebounded very well, offensively or defensively. We've worked on that."
Both teams are averaging 63 points a game. They're also close defensively, with West giving up 51.3 points and the Hawks 52.9.
The Golden Bears lead the league in field goal percentage (.454) and 3-point percentage (.374). The Hawks are No. 2 in shooting (.453) and No. 10 from 3-point range (.257).
Bozeman is second to Billings Senior in free throw percentage at .684 compared to the Broncs' .688 mark. The Hawks are passing the ball well with a league-leading 17.9 assists.
Individually, the teams are pretty well balanced. Tanner Roderick's 13.1 average puts him No. 10 in scoring. Jacob Owsley has a 12.6 average which ranks him No. 12. West's top scorer is Stanton Duke, who is 18th on the list at 11.3.
• • •
Billings Central tries to protect its Eastern A lead when Sidney and Glendive come to town. The Rams (6-2, 3-0) take on the Eagles at 7:30 tonight and meet the Red Devils at 4 p.m. Saturday.
"They're bit of an unknown with a new coach and lot of kids up from the JV," coach Sheldon Hanser said of Sidney (3-2, 2-0). "They've had some pretty good games."
The Eagles have displayed good distribution in scoring. They had 11 players in the scoring column in victories over Miles City and Plentywood.
Glendive (1-0, 1-4) is led by guard Derek Ohs.
"Everything goes through him. He's very athletic and had some big games last year," Hanser said. "He's to Glendive what (Ben) Nearpass is to us.
"We just need to do what we do best and see if the first time through the league if it's good enough. I think the thing we're most excited about is we're getting contributions from a lot of kids. Against Miles City, we had five different kids hit 3-pointers. We're pretty unselfish and that's nice to see. I think if we can play a little bit better defensively and pick up the intensity we can shut people down a little bit."
Central has three players averaging in double figures and two more, who are just under eight points a game. Nearpass leads the way at 16.8, followed by Joel Barndt at 13.1 and Cole Cattelan at 10.9. Preston Matchett (7.9) and Connor Novakovich (7.5). Nearpass, who is shooting 43 percent from the floor, has been particularly dangerous from 3-point range. He's connected on 50 percent by hitting 23 of 46 attempts.
Barndt is averaging 11.5 rebounds and has blocked 29 shots. Kevin O'Brien is the assist leader at 4.3.
• • •
It's also a big weekend for Laurel (6-2, 2-1), which plays host to Glendive tonight and Sidney Saturday afternoon.
"Glendive has a great group of athletes," coach Pat Hansen said. "They want to stretch the court. Sidney has some good guards, but they're young. They have some size and have the ability to matchup with different teams."
Miles City claimed its first victory Tuesday by whipping Broadus 65-47. J.T. Keith pumped in 25 points and Chase Bott added 17 as the Cowboys were in control all the way.
• • •
Missoula Big Sky's Joslyn Tinkle started the season with a 32-point game and she hasn't slowed down.
Tinkle, a 6-foot-3 senior who is headed to Stanford next year, has broken the 30-point mark in six of her team's eight games, and she's leading Class AA in scoring (28.0 ppg following a 32-point performance Thursday night against Kalispell Glacier) and rebounding (11.0 rpg). For AA statistical leaders, see the Prep Scoreboard on Page 3C.
• • •
The 51st annual Cowboy Invitational wrestling tournament is today and Saturday in Miles City. Last year, Glasgow became the first Class B-C team to win the prestigious meet.
The meet starts today at 9 a.m. with continuous wrestling until the final rounds of the day, which begin at 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, wrestling begins at 9 a.m. with the finals starting at 2 p.m.
The following is a list of teams entered: Miles City, Baker, Beach (N.D.), Belgrade, Belle Fourche (S.D.), Billings Central, Billings West, Bismarck (N.D.) Century, Broadus, Circle, Cody (Wyo.), Colstrip, Des Lacs-Burlington (N.D.), Dickinson (N.D.), Forsyth, Gillette (Wyo.), Glasgow, Glendive, Hardin, Hettinger (N.D.), Laurel, Lewistown, Livingston, Poplar, Powell (Wyo.), Shepherd, Sheridan (Wyo.), Sidney and Wolf Point.