With every eye in the gym fixed upon him, Brec Rademacher rose up for a final, fateful shot, one of many he took on Wednesday evening.
He reached the pinnacle of his leap and hung there, not unlike an ornament dangling from a Christmas tree, for what seemed to be an eternity in slow motion.
Finally, gravity won its bout with Rademacher and began to bring him back to earth, but not before he heaved a prayer toward the basket. It was answered, sending the gymnasium at Glacier High into a frenzy.
But not even Rademacher’s incredible shot and solid overall performance could save Glacier from itself against Bozeman in a rematch of last year’s Class AA state championship game, as a series of late miscues allowed the Hawks to steal a 48-47 win after trailing for the vast majority of the fourth quarter.
“He does some pretty spectacular stuff in practice, too,” Glacier coach Mark Harkins said of Rademacher.
“It was great to see him break out of his slump. He’s been struggling a little bit.”
The 6-foot-3 senior did anything but struggle against a team many believe to be the best in the state.
Rademacher poured in 21 points, most of which came from his six 3-pointers. He also grabbed three rebounds and recorded a steal.
“I challenged him — ‘You can’t just define yourself as a shooter’ — and he played a very, very good all-around game tonight,” Harkins said.
Rademacher’s heroics were somewhat overshadowed, however, by a late-game meltdown fueled by Glacier’s self-inflicted wounds.
Nursing a three-point lead with under 30 seconds to go, the Wolfpack inbounded the ball into the corner, where Bozeman converged to trap and force a turnover. Glacier then proceeded to foul Bozeman’s Latrell McCutcheon as he made the laid the ball in, allowing him an opportunity to tie the game, which he did.
Glacier then threw the ensuing inbound pass out of bounds, giving the ball back to Bozeman immediately. The Hawks took advantage, drilling a 3-pointer from the wing to break the tie.
“It’s on me. I put kids in bad situations,” Harkins said. “The last turnover, I brought (point guard Caden Harkins) way too deep into the corner. We just had some kids in some spots they haven’t practiced very much, so that’s on me as a coach.”
Rademacher gave Glacier new life with his borderline miraculous shot on the other end, but another mental mistake just two seconds later was too much for the Wolfpack to overcome.
Glacier inexplicably fouled as Bozeman threw the pass in and prepared to throw up a prayer of its own, sending Mack Anderson to the free-throw line with a chance to essentially win the game instead of relying on a likely miss from the field. He made the first to provide the one-point margin of victory.
The final score did nothing to sully Harkin’s outlook after the game. He simply portrayed it as another stepping stone, if not an enjoyable one, on the path to where he wants his team to be.
“I sound like a broken record, but we learn from this,” Harkins said. “This team, from where we started to where we are now, has improved a ton. So this is a learning lesson. It’s a tough one. It’s a tough lesson to learn. It’s going to sting a little bit, but all of this preseason is learning. I’m proud of the kids. I thought they really competed tonight.”
Bozeman 7 10 15 16 — 48
Glacier 5 13 13 16 — 47
BOZEMAN: Ryan Simpson 5 1-3 13, Robbie Simpson 3 2-2 8, Latrell McCutcheon 3 3-3 9, Payton Price 1 0-0 3, Ryan Lonergan 0 1-2 1, Mack Anderson 2 10-15 14.
GLACIER: Caden Harkins 2 3-4 7, Brec Rademacher 7 1-2 21, Kody Jarvis 1 1-2 3, Drew Engellant 3 0-0 6, Nick Whitman 4 0-2 9, Cody Hartsoch 0 1-4 1.