Excellent Finale

Glacier head coach Mark Harkins talks to the Wolfpack before the start of the third quarter against Missoula Hellgate at Glacier High School on Tuesday, Feb. 20. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

Daily Inter Lake | February 21, 2024 12:00 AM

The Glacier Wolfpack have been looking for that signature boys basketball win this season, and Tuesday they got it: A tightly-defended, crushed-them-on-the-glass 63-40 win over the powerful Missoula Hellgate Knights.

Call it inspired hoops. It was no secret that it was Glacier coach Mark Harkins’ last time on the bench at the Wolf Den. The only boys basketball coach that school has had is hanging up his whistle at season’s end.

So his charges went out and tracked down just about every carom.

“We wanted his last home game to be a win, and we also wanted to get him to 200 wins, which he is really close to now,” said Cohen Kastelitz, who outrebounded the Knights by himself, 16-15. “He’s at 199 now.”

Glacier seized control in the second quarter and kept it throughout the second half, handing the Knights (15-2 overall, 12-1 in the Western AA) their first conference loss. By intermission Kastelitz had outrebounded the Knights 16-5 and the Pack (8-9, 7-6 in league) owned a 34-21 lead. 

Hellgate never got closer. Liam Ells started the third quarter with a free throw, then a 17-footer, and it was 37-21. He finished with 11 points.

A 3-pointer from Noah Cummings, a hoop down low from Kastelitz and a dish from Kastelitz to Slate Burrington had Glacier up 56-35, and Hellgate cleared its bench with 3:00 left in the game.

“(Kastelitz) had a look in his eyes tonight like he wanted to go out, his Senior Night, and play well,” Harkins said. “He was amazing tonight. He was relentless.”

The 6-foot-1 senior had a game-high 15 points, and he and fellow big men Brantly Salmonsen (11 rebounds) and Burrington (seven) ruled the boards.

Defensively he and Ells and the 6-foot-6 Cummings played the top of a 3-2 zone that gave up a few 3-pointers but little of Hellgate’s bread-and-butter, cross-key passing game. They had help, of course. Nine Glacier players scored. 

Meanwhile the Knights’ leading scorer, Easton Sant, managed just two points.

“The emphasis was on him, obviously to get him out of the paint,” Kastelitz said of Sant, who averages 16.3 points a game. “Our goal was to make them shoot threes on us.”

Afterward Harkins and some family and staff were gathered at center court and read a series of messages from well-wishers. If fans expected someone to hand Harkins the microphone, he must have been saving his vocal chords for Wednesday’s government class.

“I’m glad they didn’t. I’m not very good at speeches,” he said. 

Glacier has a road game at Missoula Sentinel Thursday, and then will prepare for next week’s Western AA Divisional in Butte. Tuesday was quite a confidence boost, and Harkins had the smile to prove it.

“We hadn’t played a complete game all year long,” he said. “That was our first one. And they did a nice job.”

Hellgate    13    8    11    8    –    40

Glacier    14    20    10    19    –    63

MISSOULA HELLGATE — Chance McNulty 2-8 1-2 5, Luke Hoppe 1-4 0-2 2, Zane Gillhouse 3-6 0-0 9, Colter Russell 1-3 0-2 2, Easton Sant 1-10 0-0 2, Parker Link 2-3 0-0 6, Jacob Finch 0-0 0-0 0, Spencer Wayland 2-4 0-0 6, Rylan Davis 0-0 0-2 0, Evan Pyron  3-3 2-3 8, Vinny Paffhausen 0-0 0-0 0, Brody Schneider 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-41 3-5 40. 

GLACIER — Cohen Kastelitz 7-10 1-1 15, Noah Cummings 3-6 2-3 9, Brantly Salmonsen 1-4 2-2 4, Easton Kaufmann 1-5 0-0 3, Liam Ells 4-8 1-2 11, Slate Burrington 3-3 0-0 6, Josh Eagleton 3-5 0-0 6, Jackson Endresen 2-3 0-0 4, Gabe Christianson 0-0 0-0 0, Luke Nikunen 2-3 0-0 5, Owen Henry 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-47 6-8 63.

3-point goals — Hellgate 7-16 (Gillhouse 3-5, Wayland 2-3, Link 2-3, Sant 0-3, Hoppe 0-2), Glacier 5-17 (Ells 2-4, Nikunen 1-1, Cummings 1-3, Kauffman 1-4, Kastelitz 0-1, Salmonsen 0-2, Eagleton 0-1, Endresen 0-1). Rebounds — Hellgate 15 (McNulty 3, Hoppe 3), Glacier 40 (Kastelitz 16, Salmonsen 11). Fouls —