Caden Harkins remembers well the first time he matched up against Eric Seaman. He recalls even more clearly how he felt about his opponent afterward.
“I didn’t really like him at first,” Harkins reminisced before the Glacier boys began basketball practice Wednesday afternoon.
Much has changed since that matchup, which occured before the pair even reached middle school. It proved to be the first in a long line of showdowns between Harkins and Seaman, who now start at point guard for Glacier and Flathead, respectively.
Barring a postseason matchup between the two crosstown rivals, tonight marks the end of that line.
When the Flathead and Glacier boys square off tonight at 8, among the athletes pitted against one another will be several best friends, boys seperable only on the hardwood.
Harkins and Seaman, now “like a brother” to one another after Harkins’ early distaste of his opponent on the court, are two of them.
Sam Elliott and Brec Rademacher are two more.
Best buds since preschool, Elliott, a Flathead post, and Rademacher, a Glacier guard, now find themselves on opposite sides of a cutthroat rivalry, at least inside the lines.
“Thirty-two minutes against them,” Elliott said. “The rest of the time, we’re still good buddies.”
“We kind of forget about the whole rivalry thing as soon as the game’s over,” Rademacher added.
The same goes for the other members of the large contingent of Flathead and Glacier athletes who have been tight — off the court, that is — since middle school or even before.
Glacier’s Cody Hartsoch joined Harkins, Seaman, Elliott and Rademacher to form an 11-year-old nucleus that led the Kalispell 12U baseball team to a state championship.
Excluding limited overlap on the Kalispell Middle School team, the group has never played together on the hardwood.
Harkins and Rademacher competed for the Glacier Wildfire travel basketball team in middle school, while Elliott, Seaman and other future Flathead stars suited up for the Flathead Jazz.
“We’d play them two to three times a year, and it was the biggest game on our schedule,” Elliott said. “Just as it is now.”
Indeed, tonight’s game is a big one.
But regardless of the outcome, the aftermath is likely to be same as usual.
“We’re not going to be the best of friends (on the court),” Seaman said. “Right after, we’re good.”
Only 32 minutes of competition remain between the close friends, all of whom are seniors.
“I don’t want to think about it,” Harkins said. “I love these games too much.”
After the final buzzer sounds, it’s back to normal.
Back to hanging out on the weekends, sleeping over at each other’s houses and trying to best one another in everything from cooking to NBA 2K.
“We compete in everything we do,” Seaman said. “It’s nothing new.”
Evan McCullers is a sports reporter and columnist for the Daily Inter Lake. He can be contacted by phone at (406) 758-4463 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.