The Class AA state tournament starts tomorrow, and the Great Falls High boys basketball team was out at practice to prepare for the Hellgate Knights; an opponent they're used to seeing in the first round.
"This will be the third year in a row," said Bison Head Coach Bob Howard. "We've both won one, so think of this as a rubber match."
The Bison took the tough road to the Four Seasons Arena: Great Falls High had to beat their rival C.M. Russell in a state play-in game; something the team thinks actually helped them.
"It's nice to get a game in. We've had byes before and that 12 to 14 days of not having a game kind of gets on you a bit," coach Howard said.
That's the position the Knights are in.
"Hellgate had a bye so they've probably been focused on who they are going to play for a while now," said Bison senior Brendan Howard. "We need to come out and be focused against them."
Although the two teams didn't face each other in the regular season, the Bison say there are still some takeaways from those two previous state tournament matchups.
"They're pretty well coached. They play good defense. We just need to play defense and take care of the ball," said senior Kellan Romsa.
Brendan chimed in "they're a disciplined team, they like to slow the ball down a lot, but that doesn't mean they can't speed it up. Those guys are solid so we just need to come out and play."
Great Falls High also realizes the game against Hellgate isn't the end-all. The team, especially the seniors, have bigger goals in mind.
"We have a really good team, and a tight knit bunch of guys, so it would be awesome to bring a state championship back," said Romsa.
"[We've] been to state three years in a row with this group, this will be the fourth, and it's time to get something done," coach Howard added.