Billings basketball

Billings welcomes back senior starters, l-r, Bobby Brown, Grant Groves and Tyler Essick, from its 18-win season of a year ago.

Billings’ glory days that culminated in a Class 2 state championship in 2012 are still fresh in the minds of the Wildcats’ current crop of seniors.

The Wildcats’ Tyler Essick, Bobby Brown and Grant Groves were fixtures in the stands as wide-eyed  youngsters during the program’s hey-day that also included three straight undefeated seasons within the SWCL. 

They’re hoping for similar success this season.

“It was exciting for the town and awesome for us to see,” Groves said while recalling his memories from when he was in grade school and junior high. “We saw what those teams did and have always wanted to do it ourselves. It would be an awesome experience.”

Essick cheered on his older brother, Austin, a 2013 Billings graduate who started for the Wildcats during their state championship season. Naturally, Tyler dreamed of experiencing championships as well.

“When we went to State, we looked up to those guys,” he said. “We learned to play their ball. They were a fast team. We’re trying to be a fast team. We want to follow in their footsteps.”

The highlights Austin and his teammates passed on to the younger Wildcats have always been a mighty source of motivation. 

“They told us all about their memories, traveling and getting to State,” Tyler said. “It would be mean a lot to everybody to get to do some of the same things they did.”

Billings was 18-9 overall and 3-4 in the SWCL last season. Forsyth, last season’s league champion, and runner-up Clever are no longer part of the SWCL.

The Wildcats are optimistic about their chances to contend for the conference title based on their three returning senior starters and a standout sophomore class.

Billings, which hasn’t made it past the semifinal round of Class 2 District 11 the past five seasons, debuts Nov. 20 at home versus Chadwick

Brown hopes he and his teammates can create the same kind of excitement around Billings as the Wildcats did from 2011-’13 and bring back some of their fans.

“The fans were amazing back then,” Brown said. “The fan base has went down a little bit since then because we haven’t gone as far as those teams did. We’d love to have everyone come out for us. It would be great to have that happen.”

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