By EVAN MCCULLERS
The Daily Inter Lake
Glacier’s already seen Great Falls C.M. Russell, its opponent in Thursday’s first round of the Class AA boys basketball state tournament, once this season.
The Wolfpack would rather forget the encounter.
The Rustlers ran Glacier right out of its own gym, handing the Wolfpack a 16-point defeat — its third-largest of the season — in the season opener.
“They kind of got after us,” Glacier head coach Mark Harkins recalled before Tuesday’s practice.
But the Wolfpack, the Western division’s No. 4 seed, is far from focused on what went wrong in the first meeting with CMR, the Eastern conference’s top seed.
Glacier’s attention is instead fixed on all that has changed since then, such as improved physicality, confidence and chemistry.
“Coming into the season, we were a lot of guys with talent, but we didn’t really know how to play together,” senior guard Collin Kazmier said.
“This whole season’s kind of been a journey of figuring out how to put what we have into a mold.
“We’ve finally got it clicking. We finally know what we need to do. We know how to get it done.”
A triple-overtime win over Flathead, a team that beat Glacier twice in the regular season, in the divisional tournament gave the Wolfpack (10-12) confidence it can not only hang with, but defeat, the state’s elites.
In a season seemingly full of tight losses to top teams, Glacier’s defeat versus CMR (16-4) was not among them.
Still, the Wolfpack believes this time could be much different.
“CMR just absolutely dominated us (in the first matchup),” Harkins said.
“I think they beat us something like 27-9 in rebounds.
“They have some pretty big, solid kids, and they can be intimidating the first time you see them. Our kids have seen them, so it takes away that shock factor.”
Glacier also must get out to a better start this time around if it hopes to spring an upset.
In the first game against CMR, the Wolfpack managed only 17 points in the first half before finding its offensive groove late in the game.
It knows that won’t do in this game, not if Glacier plans on keeping up with Sam Vining, Garrison Rothwell and Jake Olsen, the Rustlers’ trio of double-digit scorers.
“We came out flat against them,” Kazmier said.
“It’s tough to come back from a big deficit. We’re definitely going to come out fast and aggressive.”
Glacier and CMR tip off at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the MetraPark in Billings.