Years of work, aspiration and motivation culminated in the final minutes of Saturday’s clamorous Class AA state championship game as the Glacier Wolfpack clung to a slim lead over the Bozeman Hawks.
“(The last few minutes) seemed to take about 10 years,” Glacier head coach Mark Harkins said.
It was worth the wait.
In front of a large pack of fans that traveled from Kalispell to Great Falls to watch history in the making, the Glacier boys basketball team defeated Bozeman 46-42 on March 11.
The thrilling, gritty victory secured the program’s first state championship and the first for a Kalispell Class AA team since 1989.
“Different kids stepped up and responded to what they needed to do,” Harkins said. “They had that championship in their sights and they did what they had to do to get it.”
Bozeman, last year’s state runner-up, pushed the Pack to the brink, rallying back from a 35-26 deficit in the third quarter and cutting Glacier’s lead to one with minutes remaining. Making things even tougher for Glacier, standout senior Jaxen Hashley fouled out with roughly three minutes remaining.
Without one of the best players in the state on the court, the Pack still pulled together and rose to the occasion, reflecting the team’s tight-knit chemistry. This group of multi-sport athletes featured almost an entire roster of pressure-tested competitors who played alongside each other for years, have won a state championship in football and have succeeded in track, among other sports.
“You can’t teach how to compete,” Harkins said. “That’s just something the kids have to learn and they have to do it a couple times and learn what it takes to raise your level. And these kids have learned how to compete in different levels, and that carries over.”
Junior Caden Harkins hit a pair of free throws with 1:22 left, boosting Glacier’s lead to 43-40, and then with barely six seconds remaining, senior Patrick O’Connell made a pair of free throws to seal the victory.
O’Connell finished with a team-high 11 points. Hashley had eight points and Brec Rademacher and Tadan Gilman each scored six apiece for Glacier (20-3 overall). Harkins finished with five points. Torin Bowden had four, and Jack Desmul, Kody Jarvis and Collin Kazmier each scored two points apiece.
“Everybody is really excited for us and the program and the school,” coach Harkins, who has led the program since its inception in 2007, said on Monday.
“It’s a culmination of 10 years of really working hard in the basketball program. It’s been really fun to see it grow. Not a lot of coaches get to say they were there from the beginning and to get to this point.”
Ten years ago, Glacier hit the hardwood for its first season without any seniors and finished 3-18 overall. Harkins looks back at that starting point and credits each and every player over the last decade for building the program into what it is today — home to a championship.
“I remember everybody who’s been in our program and they’re a part of this,” Harkins said.
Glacier 18 6 11 11 – 46
Bozeman 11 13 4 14 – 42
Glacier (20-3) – Caden Harkins 0-4 5-6 5, Tadan Gilman 2-4 2-4 6, Collin Kazmier 1-1 0-0 2, Brec Rademacher 2-3 0-0 6, Jaxen Hashley 4-9 0-1 8, Pat O’Connell 3-3 5-7 11, Torin Bowden 2-5 0-0 4, Jack Desmul 1-1 0-2 2, Kody Jarvis 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 16-31 12-20 46.
Bozeman (19-4) – Drew Huse 2-10 2-2 6, Callahan O’Reilly 4-11 1-4 10, Bailey Harlin 1-8 2-2 4, Morgan Hostetler 0-1 0-2 0, Mack Anderson 0-1 0-0 0, Lance McCutcheon 7-12 2-4 19, Kyler Ash 1-5 0-0 3. Totals: 15-18 7-14 42.
3-point goals – Glacier 2-7 (Rademacher 2-3), Bozeman 5-25 (McCutcheon 2-3, O’Reilly 1-4, Ash 1-5). Rebounds – Glacier 29 (Hashley 6), Bozeman 26 (O’Reilly 7). Total fouls – Glacier 17, Bozeman 19. Technical fouls – Hashley. Fouled out – Hashley.