“Before we see them again, we need to get our confidence back,” Glacier boys basketball coach Mark Harkins told the Beacon after the Wolfpack lost the first crosstown game of the season in January. “We need to get our swagger back.”
Harkins thought the Wolfpack (6-8 Western AA) started last month’s rivalry game tentatively, which hurt the team offensively and lead to its first loss to Flathead (6-8 Western AA) in three years.
On Feb. 23, with playoff implications on the line, the Wolfpack oozed swagger inside of Flathead’s gym, wasting no time showing the Braves they were a different team than a month earlier and running to a 52-42 crosstown win.
“It was our challenge: We had to come out confident, and the kids did that,” Harkins said. “They attacked their press, they attacked their zone and that aggressive offense was the difference between the two games.”
The game got off to a blistering pace with rapid back and forth action and five field goal attempts between both teams in the first 50 seconds. Just over a minute into the game, Glacier’s Weston Price put up a floater to get things started.
Price swiftly added a three to lift Glacier up 5-0 before Flathead’s Ethan VandenBosch got a steal and sent it to teammate Joston Cripe, who dribbled to the left block, spun and threw up a shot to put the Braves on the board.
Despite the swift rebuttal, the remainder of the quarter, and the first half, was all Wolfpack. Price added another long three from 23 feet to put up 10 points in the first quarter and move the Wolfpack to 11-2 in just over three minutes.
Flathead, hoping to capitalize on a home gym advantage to match their success earlier in the season, was unable to get points on the board as Glacier ran away to a 31-15 lead at the half.
Both teams put up 10 points in the third quarter before Flathead began a last minute rally to try to come back from what was a 20 point deficit — one of their biggest of the season.
A second half 12-0 offensive spree brought the game close. With 30 seconds left, Joston Cripe scrambled for a layup and added a free throw after getting fouled to bring the Braves within seven points but Flathead was unable to finish the job.
“They’ve just been getting better and better,” Harkins said of the Wolfpack, who faced Hellgate for a state play-in game on March 2, after the Beacon went to print. “A lot of it has to do with great senior leadership — they said, ‘Let’s go, we need to do this, and they led by example.’”
Glacier’s Price led both teams with 21 points, his single game high for the season.
The Braves, who had a solid defense and a few strong offensive bursts when they took on the Wolfpack in January, struggled offensively, hitting just a single 3-pointer in 20 attempts. The return of Hunter Hickey to the boards, after sitting out a few games for a leg injury, helped the Braves as he added eight points, but it wasn’t enough to overcome their rivals.
Flathead will take on Big Sky on Saturday to end its regular season, while Glacier is done until the Class AA play-in game for the state tournament next week.
Glacier 16 15 10 11 — 52
Flathead 8 7 10 17 — 42
GLACIER — Weston Price 21, Connor Sullivan 8, Jaxson Olsen 7, Noah Dowler 7, Collin Presnell 7, JT Allen, 1, Keifer Spohnhauer 1
FLATHEAD — Joston Cripe 15, Hunter Hickey 8, Ethan VandenBosch 7, Ezra Epperly 6, Luca Zoeller 4, Gabe Adams 2
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