The Glacier Wolfpack figured to be the favorite coming into Tuesday’s Western AA boys’ basketball game against winless Big Sky, but the Eagles needed further convincing.
A barrage of 3-pointers bridging the third and fourth quarters was necessary for Glacier to subdue Big Sky, 60-50, at the Wolf Den.
Before then, a 1-3-1 defense had knocked the Wolfpack, including senior leader Drew Engellant, out of its comfort zone.
“It slowed us down,” Mark Harkins, Glacier’s coach, said. “I thought we came out really good against their man-to-man, got some shots at the rim and I thought we penetrated well. “Then they went to that 1-3-1 and for a while, we just stood back. It really slowed down our tempo.” The Wolfpack (1-0 in league, 4-1 overall) took a 10-5 lead on the turnover-prone Eagles, but then the defense changed.
Trailing 21-11 Big Sky (0-1, 0-6) scored seven points in the final minute of the second quarter – capped by a buzzer-beating layup by Ben Maehl.
The Eagles then took a 29-27 lead on Shawn Phelps’ 3-pointer at 3:24 of the third quarter. “It was a real good adjustment by them,” Harkins said. “I thought the second half we began pushing the tempo quicker, off rebounds and stuff, to not let them set that defense up. When we increased the tempo it got back to us being on all cylinders.”
Big Sky still led 33-31 after Maehl drove in for two. But then JT Allen hit a 3-pointer and the Wolfpack had the lead for good, 34-33, with 53 seconds left in the third.
Threes by Weston Price and Engellant pushed the gap to 42-33 with 5:28 left in the game; a 3-pointer by Michael Schwarz highlighted a 9-0 run at made it 53-37 with 3:24 remaining.
Engellant scored 10 points, taking just seven field-goal attempts. Picking up the slack were Weston Price (nine points) and Keifer Spohnhauer, Schwarz and Jaxson Olsen (eight each).
Olsen also had seven rebounds, four at the offensive end. KJ Johnson hit a pair of 3-pointers to open the second half as well.
“Huge,” Harkins said of Johnson’s shots. “Got us going a little bit. I think it got him going a little bit, too. It was nice to see a smile on his face.”
Maehl had a game-high 17 points for Big Sky, and Trevyn Reed added 11. The Eagles’ Everett Fred had eight points, eight rebounds, and four blocked shots.
Glacier is off until Saturday when it faces Missoula Sentinel on the road.
Big Sky 5 13 15 1 7 — 50 Glacier 10 11 15 24 — 60
MISSOULA BIG SKY (0-6, 0-1) – Ben Maehl 17, Everett Fred 8, Draven Lincoln 6, Shawn Phelps 8, Trevyn Reed 2-7 6-8 11. Totals 16 12-23 50.
GLACIER (4-1, 1-0) – Michael Schwarz 8, Weston Price 9, Drew Engellant 10, Keifer Spohnhauer 8, KJ Johnson 6, Jaxson Olsen 8, JT Allen 5, Jonah Pate 2, Luke Bilau 2, Colin Presnell 2. Totals 17 18-25 60.
3-point goals – Big Sky 4 (Maehl 2, Phelps 2, Lincoln, Reed), Glacier 8 (Johnson 2, Schwarz, Price, Engellant, Spohnhauer, Allen). Fouls – Big Sky 21, Glacier 20. Fouled out – none.