For the host Flathead Braves to get past their crosstown rival Friday, they’ll have to find the Glacier Wolfpack shooters.
All eight of them.
“They’re really shooting the ball well from three,” Flathead boys’ basketball coach Ross Gustafson said of the Wolfpack (tip-off at Flathead’s gym is at 7:15 p.m.). “It’s not one or two guys, either. It’s everyone that steps on the floor.”
In their last two games the Pack has shot 24 for 40 from beyond the arc, including a 14 for 23 mark in a 70-50 win over Butte Saturday.
The main threats are Weston Price, Keifer Spohnhauer, Michael Schwarz and KJ Johnson, who have combined to hit 55 of 132 (42 percent) threes this season. Drew Engellant and Jaxson Allen are capable as well for Glacier, which likes to penetrate and draw defenders before kicking the ball out to the open man.
Mark Harkins, in his 12th season coaching the Wolfpack, is happiest about that balance. Price, an excellent inside-out player, leads the team at 11.5 points per game. Engellant is next at 9.2.
“I’ve been really pleased with our chemistry,” said Harkins, whose club is 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the Western AA. “Pleasantly surprised, if you will, about how they share the ball.”
As proof Harkins points to Glacier’s 102 assists on 151 field goals this season: That’s 68 percent. “I love the team-first stuff that we have,” he added.
Flathead is 2-6 and 1-3 and coming off a 60-55 non-league win at Columbia Falls. Sophomore point guard Joston Cripe had 19 points, including five 3-pointers, in the victory.
Cripe leads the youthful Braves in scoring at 10.9 points per game. Junior forward Gabe Adams adds 10.3 ppg and sophomore Hunter Hickey is next at 9.3.
Gustafson, now in his fifth season as head coach, recounted how last year Cripe scored 50 in one night for the Braves: 35 in their freshman game and 15 for the junior varsity.
“He can score,” Gustafson said. “He’s been shooting the ball better and providing a scoring punch.
“When you start as a sophomore, varsity-wise, it can take a few games to get more comfortable.”
Harkins mentions Cripe as the “guy that’s kind of scary for opposing coaches.”
“They’ve got some kids on the perimeter and they’ve got a great guy inside, in Gabe,” Harkins added. “We have our hands full and I expect them to play well.”
“Our guys definitely look forward to it,” Gustafson said. “It’s fun for the Kalispell community. We love that we get to host this game and are looking forward to competing.”
Western AA standings
Missoula Hellgate 4-0 8-0
Helena Capital 3-1 6-2
Missoula Sentinel 3-1 6-1
Glacier 2-2 5-3
Helena 2-2 3-5
Butte 2-3 3-5
Flathead 1-3 2-6
Missoula Big Sky 0-5 0-9