AA STATE PREVIEW: Glacier readies for balanced Billings West in opener

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Glacier's Ellie Stevens dribbles around the defense of Bozeman's Hannah Wheeler. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

There’s no one way to stop Billings West.

Thus, the challenge for Glacier, which will face West at 5 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the Class AA girls basketball state tournament, is not slowing down one star or focusing on a particular end of the floor, but instead finding a way to counter the Golden Bears’ potent balance.

West, the top seed from the Eastern divisional, boasts five players who rank in the top 40 of Class AA in individual scoring average, including TyLee Manuel and Shayla Montague.

Manuel is fourth in the state with 12.1 points per game. Montague ranks 10th with an average of 10.2.

West also ranks fourth in the state in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

“You kind of step back and rely on what we’ve been doing all year, which is playing good team defense,” Glacier head coach Bill Sullivan said. “Billings West has two, in particular, who can score more than the others, but they are well-balanced. Any one of them can get you if you let them and give them looks. Defensively, we just have to be solid.”

Glacier should be comfortable relying on its stifling defense, as it’s often been the Wolfpack’s calling card this season.

Sullivan’s squad allows just 37.2 points per game, good for third in the state behind Helena Capital and Helena High.

The Wolfpack is 12-2 this season when holding opponents under 40 points and 1-7 when they eclipse 40.

In addition to playing stifling defense, Glacier must also do something few other teams have been able to do against West — simply stay in the game.

The Bears have been dominant on their way to an 18-2 record, the best in the state.

“Their size just creates a lot of problems for everybody,” Sullivan said. “Shoot, 6-foot, 6-1, 6-2, 6-1, 6-foot, 5-11. They’ve got great size across the board.

“You’ve got to be able to handle their size. The key probably will be to make sure we block out and rebound.”

A disadvantage for both teams is their unfamiliarity with the other.

The two have not played one another since the 2015 state tournament, long before many of the current contributors for Glacier and Billings West had even sniffed the varsity teams.

Glacier’s focus in preparation, therefore, has been on the limited film it does have of West, but even more so on itself.

“Hopefully, we’ve been able to rep (West’s offensive sets) enough that we’re familiar with it,” Sullivan said.

“They have the same problem as us. They really haven’t seen us. So really, it’s going to come down to the fundamentals of basketball. Who’s the most fundamental in what they do and what they do best?”

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