HELENA — It's midway through the AA Western Conference schedule for girls basketball, and the Helena High team and Missoula Hellgate view the rest of the season with different goals.
The Bengals are looking to repeat as state champions, so they need to begin hitting their stride with six conference games left.
The Knights are still working on the little things to end the season strong and build for next season.
With that in mind, both did what was needed Saturday. Helena, however, came out on the winning end 57-20 at home.
Emily Feller and Jamie Pickens paced the Bengals (11-2, 4-2) with 12 points each, while Payton Aasved was a spark off the bench with nine points, all on 3-pointers. Kamden Hilborn and Paige Aasved had eight points each.
Pickens stretch her string of double-doubles to 12 games. She added 10 rebounds to her score line.
"It started with our defense," Helena coach Eric Peterson said. "To hold a team to only 20 points was an amazing effort by everybody. Offensively, we hit some shots. We've been hitting them in practice, but now we hit them in the game."
Peyton Arledge led the scoring for Hellgate (3-9, 1-5) with six points. Jada Merseal had five points, while Kaitlin Olson, Stephanie Wozniak and Emma Davis rounded out the scoring with three points apiece.
The Knights were down 29-11 at halftime, and the most they scored in a quarter was six in the fourth.
Helena a steady in the first half, but came out strong in the third quarter with 20 points. The second half also featured the Bengals utilizing their bench to rest starters and enhance depth.
"The girls never game up," Hellgate coach Rob Henthorn said. "We work hard in practice. We try to handle the little things so the big things get easier. We need to get the ball to the hole, and we were having trouble doing that. We have to do that better."
Both teams had trouble holding on the to ball for stretches. Hellgate, however, lost it nine more times than the Bengals.
"They are a well-oiled machine, and they were hitting on all cylinders," Henthorn said. "Between Helena and Capital, those are two of the top three teams in the state."
The Helena game caps a tough week for the Knights. They lost to Capital on Thursday 72-30.
"We just have to reset and keep going," Henthorn said. "We never give up. We focus on attitude and effort."
Helena, however, need a complete game for confidence and momentum. Losses to Capital and Sentinel can be avenged in the coming weeks.
"We just passed the halfway point, and we are in a great position," Peterson said. "We would like to have a couple of the losses back, but those losses were an opportunity to experience close games. And those experiences will help us come tournament time."