HELENA — Missoula Hellgate High girls basketball coach Rob Henthorn didn't hesitate to say third-ranked Helena Capital is one of the top teams in Class AA after his team lost to the Bruins 54-44 Thursday night at Capital.
"They are great, athletic and took us out of our game a little bit with their defensive pressure," Henthorn said. "They are very long. We had to work hard and couldn't get into our offensive rhythm a few times. They are such a great team."
Henthorn didn't hesitate to put Capital up there with AA's elite teams such as Helena, the two-time Class AA champs, and Billings West, the No. 2 rated team in this week's 406mtsports.com polls.
"They are right up there with Helena High and West, and next Thursday's game with Helena High is going to be a great game," Henthorn said.
From the start of the game Thursday night to the end, the Bruins asserted their dominance over Hellgate.
They out-played them in every statistically relevant category, including out-rebounding the Knights 32-23 and forcing them into committing 16 turnovers that included 12 steals.
The Bruins also had a stable distribution of the basketball. Several players were involved in scoring, and they had three players score in double-digits.
Sydney Sheridan led Capital with 13 points, Paige Bartsch finished with 12 points and Megan Lindbo scored 10 points. The trio nearly outscored the entire Hellgate team with a combined 35 points on the night.
Despite the statistical dominance, Capital coach Katie Garcin-Forba still sees room for improvement as the team prepares with for a showdown with Helena.
"I think once the girls got some separation, they relaxed a little bit, but I think we could have been a little more patient on offense once we got up-and-down the floor and waited for some great shots," Garcin-Forba said. "The girls had control of the game, and even though we did not play well in the fourth quarter, I think that was a good teachable moment for them to allow them to feel the difference. We have to get better from there."
Capital also had help from its supporting cast, including Emily Kidder, who scored eight points, and Dani Bartsch, who scored seven points.
"We had equal scoring, and when we do that, it makes us harder to guard, and it makes their defense scramble a bit," Garcin-Forba said.
Capital scored 18 points off turnovers and had 13 second-chance points en route to dominating the Knights in the second half.
"I think this is great confidence for the girls (moving forward)," Garcin-Forba said. "Now we can turn our attention toward Helena."