For Flathead and Glacier, it’s been practice, practice, practice with a few games thrown in along the way.
And that’s fine with both boys head basketball coaches — Flathead’s Ross Gustafson and Glacier’s Mark Harkins.
“Thirty practices and four games,” Gustafson said thus far.
“With this group, that’s OK because we were relatively inexperienced.”
Harkins has also adjusted to that schedule.
“It’s been like that the last couple of years,” Harkins said.
“It’s OK. It gives us a chance to work on things.”
Flathead is off to a 2-2 start overall with Glacier checking in at 1-3. All four contests for both teams were nonconference.
Flathead returns one starter in 6-foot-2 senior guard Anthony Jones. Stephen Bridges, a 6-3 senior guard, was the team’s sixth man a year ago.
“Only two with varsity experience,” Gustafson said.
Flathead opened the season with double-digit losses in Great Falls, but bounced back to beat Columbia Falls and Butte.
“We didn’t have a great weekend,” Gustafson said of the trip to the Electric City.
“In the subsequent weeks, we have really stepped it up.”
Gabe Adams, a 6-5 sophomore forward/center, leads the Braves in scoring. He is averaging 9.5 points per game.
“We don’t have a consistent 18- or 20-point type scorer,” Gustafson said.
“We do have three guys who will get maybe eight, 10 or 12 in a game. We’re pretty balanced.”
Gustafson has been pleased with his team’s hustle on defense.
“We could be pretty tough defensively,” he said.
“We are showing some promise. I am happy with the way things are coming along.”
“Doing well,” Gustafson said.
“Sharing the basketball and team balance.”
The one negative has been turnovers.
“Been a work in progress,” he said.
“Just take care of the ball, value the basketball a little more.”
Flathead has two games on the schedule this week, both nonconference — tonight at Whitefish (7:30) and home Saturday with Post Falls, Idaho (2:45).
Glacier is on the court just once this week, entertaining Post Falls tonight (6).
Glacier graduated eight seniors from last year’s squad, so Harkins says the Wolfpack has “a lot of learning to do” on the court.
Although the inexperience has been a factor in the team’s slow start, two of the team’s losses were by 10 points or less. The other one was a 16-point loss to Great Falls C.M. Russell in the opener.
“Very athletic,” Harkins said of his team.
“They play very, very hard. We just have to get our level of play up to the varsity level.”
The one negative has been ball control.
“Turnovers are a problem,” he said.
“Other than that, we have done some really good things.”
Harkins said the Wolfpack is shooting the ball “very well from perimeter — almost 40 percent from behind the arc. When we shoot like that, it opens things up in the middle.”
Bret Michaels and Drew Engellant have been the team’s consistent scorers.
Michaels, a 6-3 senior guard, tallied a season high 23 against Bozeman and led the way against CMR with a team-best 10.
Engellant, a 6-5 junior forward, netted a season high 18 points at Great Falls High and shared scoring honors with 6-0 junior guard KJ Johnson in a victory at Columbia Falls with 12 apiece.
Engellant, an honorable-mention all-conference selection last year as a sophomore, will be counted on heavily this year to carry the scoring load.
“Finding the right chemistry,” Harkins said of what he’s looking for now.
“We’re changing lineups every game.
“I’m just excited for the season,” he added.
“We’re ready to roll.”
Glacier opens Western AA play on Tuesday at Missoula Big Sky.
Flathead starts Western AA action on Thursday hosting Big Sky.
The following night — Friday — it’s the first crosstown game of the season at Glacier starting at 8 p.m. The second crosstown contest is Feb. 5 at Flathead.
The regular season ends at home for Flathead on Feb. 23 versus Missoula Hellgate.
Glacier’s finale is Feb. 22 at home with Missoula Sentinel.
The Western AA divisional follows Feb. 28, March 1-2 at Glacier. The state tournament is scheduled for March 7-9 at the Butte Civic Center.
NOTE: Glacier High School is participating in the Coaches vs. Cancer 3-Point Challenge. High schools and colleges have joined together to raise money for the fight against cancer. Individuals can make a pledge for every 3-pointer the Glacier varsity team makes this month, or individuals can make a one-time donation. All money raised goes to the American Cancer Society. To make a donation, or pledge, go to https://pledgeit.org/cvc19-glacier-high-school-mt. To see how Glacier is doing in the challenge, check out the national leaderboard at 3PointChallenge.org.
Class AA Standings
W L W L
Missoula Hellgate 1 0 4 1
Missoula Sentinel 0 0 4 3
Flathead 0 0 2 2
Helena High 0 0 3 4
Helena Capital 0 0 2 3
Glacier 0 0 1 3
Missoula Big Sky 0 1 1 6
W L W L
GF C.M. Russell 0 0 5 0
Great Falls High 0 0 4 0
Bozeman 0 0 4 1
Billings Skyview 0 0 5 2
Billings West 0 0 2 2
Butte 0 0 1 4
Billings Senior 0 0 0 5