No. 2 Billings West follows third-quarter M.O. to defeat No. 4 Billings Skyview

BILLINGS — Coach Charlie Johnson tells his Billings West girls basketball team that the first three minutes of the third quarter are the most important part of the game.

Thursday night, the second-ranked Golden Bears owned the first three minutes of the third quarter and the next five, too, as they beat No. 4 Billings Skyview 57-48 behind a strong second half overall at the West High gym.

Ten seconds into the third quarter, Sydney Pierce hit a shot from just inside the 3-point line and West was on its way to a 14-2 run. By the time Breanna Williams helped steady the ship for Skyview, Megan Voegele and Elle Stock were pumping in 3-pointers and the Bears’ lead was 15 after what was a 20-20 halftime tie.

West outscored the Falcons 25-10 in the third quarter. That just padded an already impressive statistic for the Bears: In their seven games, they’ve outscored their opponents 97-67 in the first eight minutes after halftime.

“Johnson really gets us motivated at halftime,” said Voegele, who comes off the bench along with Stock to provide some instant offense for the Bears. “His big thing is the first three minutes of the third quarter should be your best basketball. If we come out the first three minutes of the third quarter like that, it shapes the second half, and I think we showed that tonight.”

Kourtney Grossman continued to reclaim her basketball proficiency after missing all of last season due to two knee surgeries by scoring a team-high 16 points to lead the Bears (6-1