As the first half neared its end, Glacier found itself on the wrong end of a 6-0 Flathead run and down by a game-high eight points, the contest seemingly careening out of control.
Enter the steady hands of Anna Schrade and Kali Gulick, two players who missed the Wolfpack’s 29-25 loss to the Bravettes earlier this month with injuries.
Schrade’s bucket was followed by a layup from Gulick in the first half’s final seconds.
Relatively inconsequential at the time, the four-point spurt just before halftime stymied Flathead’s momentum and put the Wolfpack within striking distance.
A suffocating defensive effort followed in the second half, leading to a 30-24 Western AA conference victory for the Glacier girls over their crosstown rival at Glacier High School on Thursday night.
“We’ve talked about it all year long, peaks and valleys,” Glacier head coach Bill Sullivan said. “Certainly, we’re going to get in some valleys. You hope they’re not too low. You just keep climbing out and climbing out and climbing out, and hopefully you end up on top.”
Glacier (11-7, 6-6 Western AA) switched to a zone defense after Flathead (5-12, 4-7) scored four quick points to begin the second half. The Bravettes didn’t score again.
“You’re not going to win many games doing that,” Flathead head coach Tricia Dean said.
While Glacier held Flathead scoreless for the entirety of the fourth quarter and majority of the third, the Wolfpack slowly but surely chipped away at the 24-18 deficit it faced.
It closed the game on a 12-0 run, two points each provided by six different players.
“In the first half, we were struggling with, ‘OK, you cut, so what do I do that’s most productive so that we can get an open shot?’” said Glacier guard Anna Schrade, who tied for the game high with 10 points. “In the second half, we definitely started working more together and cutting off each other.”
Glacier’s zone forced Flathead to earn its points from the perimeter, which it failed to do.
Clara Vandenbosch led the Bravettes with 10 but struggled to find her normally potent 3-point stroke in the second half.
Mary Heaton and Taylor Henley, Flathead’s most productive posts, combined for 12 points in the first half but were held scoreless in the second.
“We had a tough time getting them the ball in the low post, and that really affected us,” Dean said.
Schrade and Gulick, who added eight points, managed to keep Glacier within striking ditance as the offense sputtered and Flathead threatened to put the game out of reach.
The duo combined for 18 of the Wolfpack’s 24 points in the first three quarters.
“They have a big impact on our offense,” Sullivan said. “It just gives the girls a little bit higher level of confidence when they’re on the floor.”
Schrade and Gulick passed the torch to Cadie Williams and Ellie Stevens, both senior captains, who stepped to the free-throw line and drained two free throws apiece in the game’s waning seconds to give the Wolfpack some breathing room.
Glacier, which locked up the No. 4 seed in the upcoming Western AA divisional tournament with the win, will see Flathead again. The two teams will face off in the divisional tournament with a spot in the state tournament on the line.
But the future matchup was far from the Wolfpack’s minds as it mingled in the gym after Tuesday night’s triumph. That much was especially true for the seniors.
“A really good send-off,” Schrade said.
Flathead 11 9 4 0 — 24
Glacier 8 8 8 6 — 30
FLATHEAD: Sadie Wilson 1 0-0 2, Mary Heaton 2 4-4 8, Clara Vandenbosch 4 1-2 10, Taylor Henley 2 0-0 4.
GLACIER: Ellie Stevens 0 2-2 2, Kali Gulick 4 0-4 8, Cadie Williams 1 2-3 4, Anna Schrade 4 2-7 10, Kaleigh Crawford 1 0-0 2, Alivia Atlee 1 0-0 2, Raley Shirey 1 0-0 2.