Glacier is on a roll.
The Wolfpack downed the Missoula Big Sky girls basketball team 67-37 on Tuesday night to win its fourth game in its last five tries, the lone loss coming to Helena Capital (5-1) on Jan. 30. It puts Glacier at 5-3 on the season and in the driver’s seat for the third seed at the Western AA divisional, which begins in early March.
That might be a month away, but following a successful trip to the Class AA state tournament last year — Glacier was to play Hellgate in the consolation semifinals before the pandemic halted the tournament — this is a team with high aspirations.
They also are a team not looking past anyone.
“Our goal coming into this game was to play our game for 32 minutes,” Glacier coach Amanda Cram said. “We knew that Big Sky was going to be aggressive and they were going to squeeze every little bit out of their personnel.”
The Eagles won their first game under first-year head coach Jordan Featherman last week against Butte and it just so happened to be the first win for Big Sky since 2018. It is a tough, hungry team with a group of seven seniors who have rarely found victory on the court during their years.
Their time looks to be coming, but Tuesday night it was a trio of Glacier seniors who are looking to push the Wolfpack back to the state tournament. Forward Emma Anderson netted 12 points, as did guard Ellie Keller. The third part of the trio, Kenzie Williams, added on nine points from her guard spot.
Both Williams (13.0 ppg) and Keller (11.6 ppg) are averaging double figures, while Anderson puts up 6.7 points per game and hauls in just over six boards per contest.
It’s a good core, surrounded by an excellent group of role players.
“All three of them together do something really special for our team,” Cram said. “And what I really like about Ellie and Kenzie is that they have the ability to put up big points, but they really are team players. If one more pass makes sense, they’re going to do that for their team.”
Coming into the contest, Glacier had 80 assists on 111 field goals this season, which is ball distribution that would make any coach happy.
That was much the story against the Eagles, as a 15-11 first-quarter led turned into a 15-2 run through the final five minutes of the second frame. The ball was flying around, lots of players were getting touches and the unselfishness was clearly on display.
Glacier also makes a living in its opponents passing lanes and came up with numerous Big Sky turnovers.
“Defensively, we’re using speed to our advantage,” said Cram, who also mentioned Williams and Keller were standout soccer players. “We like to pressure the ball, which makes it lot easier to get in those passing lanes and get some of those deflections and steals.”
On the other side, it was a frustrating evening for Featherman and his group of players, who are working hard to build up a program. The foundation is there and it was obvious that the Big Sky players were playing with a lot of heart and passion.
The ball was moving for the Eagles too, but stringing together positive offensive possessions was an area of improvement for the team. A good possession or spurt would be cut short by a travel or double dribble or throw away, limiting the amount of offense Big Sky could generate.
When the Eagles did get into a good rhythm, there were positives. They found open shots, but were just 1 of 9 from behind the arc and 10 of 32 from the field and had 17 turnovers. Big Sky was also out-rebounded and Glacier certainly had the size advantage in the matchup.
“It’s never for a lack of effort and these girls put it out there every single night and play hard and for us, there’s nothing more that we can ask,” Featherman said. “We just keep trying to improve and fix little things, but our margin for error is nil.”
Next up for the Eagles is a game on the road at Flathead on Thursday, while Glacier has a big home matchup with Missoula Sentinel on the same night.
“When it gets tough, we get tough and play harder,” Featherman said. “And that’s our mantra, period.”
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