The matchup seemed nearly impossible to overcome.
Glacier’s defense, ranked third in the state in average points allowed, versus Flathead’s cellar-dwelling offense, ranked dead last in points per game.
Sure enough, Flathead struggled to score.
It didn’t matter.
The undersized Bravettes tormented the Wolfpack all night long on the defensive end, forcing turnovers and tough shots throughout a 29-25 crosstown girls basketball victory at Flathead High School that gave Flathead sole possession of fourth place in the Western AA conference.
“We are becoming a very good defensive team,” interim Flathead coach Tryg Johnson said, “and I think we showed it tonight.”
Glacier (7-4 overall, 2-3 Western AA), which has four players listed at 6-foot or taller on its roster, attempted to take advantage of its size, especially early in the contest.
But Flathead (4-8, 3-3), anticipating attacks in the paint, denied the Wolfpack’s posts the ball and forced perimeter jumpers.
“It was a big factor,” Glacier coach Bill Sullivan said. “We’ve got to be able to execute when we’ve got those bigs on the floor. Flathead did very well, but we’ve got to be better.”
For the Bravettes, who claim only one player 6-foot or taller and regularly play with four guards on the floor, pushing the game away from the basket reaped benefits. No Glacier post was among the visitors’ four scorers.
“We have been undersized since Day 1,” Johnson said.
“I don’t know why all the tall people are north of town.”
Flathead never trailed, grabbing an early lead as Glacier’s offense spun its wheels. The Wolfpack scored just one point in the first quarter.
Even as the Wolfpack found a bit of rhythm, the Bravettes held onto the lead throughout the second quarter thanks to an explosive offensive showing, especially by this game’s standards, by Clara Vandenbosch.
The 5-foot-5 senior, who scored a team-high 13, accounted for all nine of Flathead’s points in the second period.
“Clara’s just been a rock for us,” Johnson said. “We’re 3-3 in conference right now because Clara’s been stepping up.”
Glacier made a late charge with 12 points in the fourth, the only double-digit scoring quarter for either team.
Flathead made only nine of its 23 free-throw attempts in the final period, leaving the door open for a Wolfpack comeback. But as was the case all night, Glacier could find nothing on the offensive end.
“We struggled offensively, no doubt about it,” Sullivan said. “Left a lot of points on the board. Missed a lot of close-range shots.”
Even after an emotional crosstown win, Flathead’s response was measured. At least the coach’s was.
“We need to be able to build off it,” Johnson said. “If we stop playing like we (are) right now, then it doesn’t matter. One practice at a time, one game a time.”
The players’ responses, however, were a bit of a different story.
Before last year’s win over Glacier, Flathead had not defeated the Wolfpack in seven years.
Shortly following her team’s second win over its crosstown rival in the last three meetings, senior post Mary Heaton sprinted from the locker room to celebrate with the packed student section on the opposite side of the court, smile and arms both wide as could be.
If it wasn’t already, the Bravettes’ misery is now officially over.
Glacier 1 9 3 12 — 25
Flathead 6 9 5 9 — 29
GLACIER: Ellie Stevens 1 0-0 2, Bria Anderson 2 1-2 6, Aubrie Rademacher 3 1-2 7, Kaleigh Crawford 3 3-5 10.
FLATHEAD: Sadie Wilson 0 2-3 2, Maddie Walter 2 0-2 6, Averie Olson 0 1-4 1, Mary Heaton 0 4-11 4, Clara Vandenbosch 4 3-4 13, Taylor Henley 1 1-5 3.