No. 3 Billings West girls steal victory from Billings Skyview

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BILLINGS — When the Billings West Golden Bears absolutely needed a basket, they relied on their defense.

Kourtney Grossman made a steal near the half-court line and turned it into the go-ahead layup with about 40 seconds to play, and the No. 3-ranked Golden Bears went on to a 47-44 win over Billings Skyview on Saturday at the Skyview gym.

The intra-city rivals had played to a near standoff in the fourth quarter, with neither team scoring for more than three minutes after two free throws by Kendell Ellis pulled West within 44-43 with 4:19 left in the game.

As the Falcons tried to nurse that slim lead with under a minute to go, Grossman took a stab at the ball and knocked it away from Cami Harris. Grossman then took it in for a basket and a 45-44 lead, and a possession later her sister Kaitlin added her own steal and layup for a 47-44 lead, which turned out to be the final score.

“I just feel like it became a contest of who wanted it more and who was going to work the hardest to play defense at the end there,” said Kaitlin Grossman, who as a junior is the older of the sisters. “With the athletic ability that so many of our players have, we have the ability that some teams don’t to just make athletic plays that are able to give us offensive opportunities and take some momentum away from the other team.”

Layla Baumann scored 15 points to lead the Bears, who had eight players score. Kourtney Grossman added eight as West (3-0) extended its winning streak over Skyview to 17 straight. The Bears haven’t lost to Skyview since the 2011-12 season.

Skyview certainly had its chances to break that streak. The game’s largest margin was when West scored the first seven points of the game, while the Falcons had several four-point leads. The Falcons’ final lead happened when Brooke Berry started the fourth quarter with two free throws and a bucket to give the Falcons a 44-40 advantage with 4:35 to play.

The Falcons, though, didn’t score the rest of the way. Coach Brent Montague pointed to the game-ending stretch and a span of 1:53 at the end of the first half when West went on a 9-0 run to erase a four-point deficit as the defining moments.

“I don’t care who it is, we have to take care of the basketball and we just didn’t do it,” Montague said. “I’m not going to make any excuses, our kids fought. That’s what we asked them to do. Just come and fight, and if you do that we’re going to have a chance at it.

“We’ve got a good team. We just have to shore up a couple areas.”

Berry finished with a game-high 17 points, Cami Harris had 11 and Breanna Williams added 10 for the Falcons (1-2).

West coach Charlie Johnson said the game-ending sequence was an example of practice makes perfect.

“Kourtney did a good job on hedging and getting a steal there, something that (assistant coach) Jody McIlvain does every day in in practice,” he said. “The girls love playing defense, but when coach Mac runs this drill, we challenge them. Kourtney just did something that we do every day of the week and it carried over into the game.”

Email Mike Scherting at mike.scherting@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsSchert