MISSOULA — Basketball fans in Missoula won't be disappointed over the weekend.
The Missoula Hellgate and Sentinel boys and girls basketball teams, some of the best in the Class AA all season, will tip off in a much-anticipated crosstown doubleheader on Friday evening at Dahlberg Arena. Then, on Saturday, the Montana State Bobcats men's and women's basketball teams visit Missoula for the first of their two rivalry meetings with Montana this season. For the men's game, it will be the 300th Cat-Griz game in the series history.
Both days make for a special weekend for hoops in the Garden City.
"I'm super excited," Sentinel junior Tony Frohlich-Fair said. "I think that after last year I've kind of just been focused on that. Not overlooking anybody else but knowing that they're one of the best teams in the state, it's going to be a really good experience for everybody. I know that not a lot of people get to experience. I think that it'll be super exciting."
Focusing on the high school games, all four teams between Hellgate and Sentinel have been at the top of Class AA from the beginning of the season. The Hellgate boys, last year's runner-up, come in 10-0 after topping Missoula Big Sky on Tuesday. The Knights girls also beat the Eagles to come into Friday's game 9-1.
Both Sentinel squads sport 8-1 marks this season.
The dynamics of all four teams have made for interesting basketball. While the Hellgate boys are a veteran group looking for that final push for a state title, the Knight girls, as well as both of Sentinel's teams, are made up of younger players on paper who are stepping up at the varsity level. Sentinel's girls have one senior in Lexi Deden while the Spartan boys and Hellgate girls are a bit more experienced on the court despite their youth.
"There's going to be a huge crowd and I'm just really nervous for it, but I'm also super excited," Hellgate sophomore Addy Heaphy said. "It's a really big game in the season against a really good team, and I'm just super excited."
Division I talent will be on display on Friday in both games with Hellgate senior Rollie Worster (Utah State), teammate Abe Johnson (Army) and Deden (Montana State). Plenty of other players are showing the potential to play at that level in college, as well. Sentinel junior Alex Germer currently holds an offer from the Bobcats.
Statistically, Hellgate's boys average 67.5 points per game while Sentinel averages 57.5. On the girls side, Sentinel edges Hellgate with a 53.4 points per game mark compared to 51.1 for the Knights.
Tipoff for the girls game is scheduled for 6 p.m. while the boys will begin at 8 p.m.