The season’s first crosstown basketball matchup for Glacier and Flathead tips off tonight at Flathead High School.
The girls have the honor of going first with a 6 p.m. start. The boys follow at approximately 8.
This series has been dominated by the Glacier boys and girls. The Wolfpack boys are 14-5 overall while the girls are 14-3. Those records include postseason play.
The Glacier boys have won seven straight in the series while the girls have won 11 (the last loss was in the third season — 2009-10).
This is also the stretch drive for both AA schools with conference action dominating the schedules before state play-in games and the state tournament in Bozeman March 10-12.
“We’re really excited,” Glacier girls coach Kris Salonen said about the five final weeks of the regular season.
“This is really the start of conference play. We have been away from it for a couple weeks.”
The Flathead and Glacier boys are both looking for their first conference win after two losses.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” Flathead coach Ross Gustafson said of this matchup.
“All conference games are important, not only the crosstown rivalry.
“The atmosphere (packed gyms at both schools) is a great been part of this rivalry,” he continued.
“This is my fourth year. It’s probably one of the best in the state. Kalispell is unique in that it does not have a college team like most AA towns do, so this is the game.”
The Glacier girls are 1-1 in league play while Flathead is 0-2.
“For us to be successful offensively, we have to be aggressive,” Salonen said.
“That is something we struggled with early on in the season. We’ve gotten better.”
Glacier is also taking better care of the basketball, which has helped. In a 58-47 victory last Saturday against Lake City in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, the Wolfpack had just 12 turnovers. That compares to a season high 25 earlier against Missoula Sentinel.
Two of the top scorers in AA will be on the court for the girls. Tiana Johnson, a 6-foot-2 junior guard, is averaging 14.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game for Flathead.
Hailee Bennett, a 5-7 senior guard, is averaging 14.6 points for Glacier.
“We have to be aware of where she’s at all the time,” Salonen said of Johnson.
“She’s a very good shooter.”
Tadan Gilman, a 6-1 junior guard, tops the Glacier boys in scoring with a 12.6 average.
Matt Marshall, a 6-0 senior guard, is averaging 12.2 points for Flathead.
Rebounding leaders for both schools are Noah Lindsay, a 6-4 senior forward for Glacier, with 5.9 per game, and Cade White, a 6-1 junior forward for Flathead, with 4.9.
“Our defense has been pretty solid, especially in the half court,” Gustafson said.
“And I feel like we’re getting good point-guard play out of Matt Marshall. Those are a couple positives. We’re still working on putting it all together.”
Gustafson said inconsistent play “as far as effort and execution” on offense is still a trouble spot at times.
Glacier is back in action Thursday with the boys hosting Hellgate while the girls travel to Missoula to play Hellgate.
Flathead continues with league play on Saturday with the boys at Missoula Hellgate while the girls host Hellgate.