BUTTE — Great defense is always a recipe for success. But when you combine it with stellar 3-point shooting, it’s a dangerous combination.
It’s also one Kalispell Glacier used to rout Billings Skyview 65-48 in the opening round of the Class AA boys state basketball tournament.
The Wolfpack, the No. 2 seed out of the Western AA, came out firing and connected on six first-half 3-pointers, three of which were from Kaidrian Buls, as they built a 30-16 halftime lead.
Four of those triples came in the first four minutes of the game as the Wolfpack scored the first eight points and took a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“I was really proud of (Kaid) and (Adam Nikunen),” Glacier head coach Mark Harkins said. “It’s easy to get tight in a state tournament and I thought they came out loose and they shot the ball well from the beginning. That really got us going.”
In the second stanza, Glacier blew the game wide open thanks to a 12-2 scoring run. Skyview closed the half on a mini-spurt to cut the deficit to 14 at the break but still shot just 24 percent compared to 60 percent from deep for the Wolfpack.
However, little changed in the second half. Glacier hit two triples early in the third and after a make by Adam Nikunen, his third of the game, the Wolfpack lead was 44-27.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Glacier’s lead got as large as 21 points, 56-35 and from there, the Wolfpack cruised on their way to clinching a semifinal berth.
“We really challenged them to be ready for this game,” Harkins said. “We practice quite a bit in the morning, so these guys are used to getting up at six. More than that, they didn’t feel sorry for themselves and they were excited, but they weren’t jumping all over the place (after the win). They set big goals at the start of the season and they want to hit them.”
Nikunen was a perfect 4-for-4 from 3-point range in the win for Glacier and scored 12 points. Buls scored a team-high 15 after three first-half treys, while Noah Dowler also added 12 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks.
Skyview had just one scorer reach double figures and that was Lane Love, who finished with a game-high 16. Rhyse Owens added 10.
“You can’t go down 9-0 or whatever the start was,” Skyview head coach James Bulluck said. “We only scored 16 points in the first half and for the top scoring team in Class AA, we just didn’t shoot very well. You have to give credit to Glacier, they came out and played well. This one hurts, it doesn’t feel good and we just have to do our homework and hopefully, score some points (on Friday).”
Glacier (15-7) will face the winner of Billings West and Missoula Big Sky Friday at 3:30 p.m. Skyview (13-10) will face the West-Big Sky loser in loser-out action on Friday morning.
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