It's Round 2 of crosstown basketball, with the Helena High girls hosting Capital in The Jungle on Friday. The tip is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The contest features two of the top teams in the state. Host Helena is sitting in second place in the Western Conference, with an overall record of 14-3, and a 7-2 mark in league play. Capital is third, and after Thursday's narrow loss to Sentinel stood at 11-6, 5-4.
Two of HHS' three losses came at the hands of undefeated Missoula Sentinel, which is atop the West's leader board at a perfect 18-0, 10-0, while Glacier is fourth in the standings at 6-10, 4-4.
The Lady Bengals captured the first intra-city meeting a month ago 51-41 in the Bears' Den. HHS, under coach Eric Peterson, averages 57 points a game, and is outscoring opponents by about 11 points a contest. Coach Bill Pilgeram's Lady Bruins hold a seven-point scoring advantage over their counterparts, and average about 51 points per contest.
For Helena, sophomore post Jamie Pickens is the third-leading scorer in the state, averaging 15.4 points per game. The 6-foot-1 hoopster is also third in both rebounding, at 9.5 boards per game, and 24 total blocked shots; and stands No. 4 with 58 free throws made.
Junior guard Kamden Hilborn sits atop the state assists' leader board, passing for 4.79 dishes per game. She is also second in steals, at 3.14 swipes a game, and 13th in the state in scoring, with a 9.9 points average.
Taelyr Krantz is No. 5 in the state under the glass, spearing 8.2 boards a game, and is seventh in steals, averaging 2.50 thefts. in the No. 10 spot in the state with 18 3-pointers is Kendra Kloker. Krantz and Kloker are scoring 8.5 and 7.2 points per game.
Rounding HHS' top scores are Hailey Crawford (5.9 ppg), Sam Holman (5.0 ppg) and Jessica Ellsworth (4.8 ppg).
"In order for us to be successful against Capital, we need to dictate the pace of the game," explained Peterson, "bring pressure on the defensive end without getting into foul trouble, and get defensive rebounds."
Taylor Sullivan, a 6-3 junior post for CHS, is No. 8 in the state in both scoring and rebounding, at 12.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Sullivan also ranks second with 27 blocked shots, is No. 3 with 58 free throws made, and rates fourth in field goal accuracy at 52 percent (55 of 106).
Sophomore guard Sydney Sheridan averages 7.6 points a night, and is fifth in the state in assists at 3.29. Kacie Gross and Megan Lindbo are next for the brown-and-gold's offense, at 6.5 and 6.0, points. Lindbo is third in the state in free throw accuracy, netting 33 of 42 from the charity stripe for 79 percent.
Shelby VanHemelryck (4.6 ppg) leads the Lady Bruins with 15 3-pointers, and ranks No. 2 in the state in 3-point accuracy, at 47 percent (15-32). Aryn Cummings (4.2 ppg) is No. 8 in the state in field goal accuracy, with a mark of 49 percent (24-49).
"In the first matchup, we let Helena High get off to a good start and we were fighting from behind much of the game," said Pilgeram, whose cagers came into Thursday's game riding a four-game win streak. "We played very well for the last three quarters and did many of the things we wanted to do.
"We need to compete at a high level for the entire 32 minutes this time to give ourselves a chance to win. Doing the little things of defense, rebounding, and hustle plays are critical for us."