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Rounding up trophy runs of Wolfpack, Bravettes

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | March 15, 2023 11:55 PM

Recency bias is a thing, so I have a couple things of note after watching the recent State AA basketball tournaments last weekend at the Butte Civic Center.

Before scoring one point in the consolation game, Glacier’s Adam Nikunen shot 9 of 12 from 3-point range in that venerable barn. Without his play Saturday morning — three 3-pointers, 14 points — I don’t think the Wolfpack end up with a third-place trophy.

Flathead’s Tali Miller grabbed nine rebounds in the Bravettes’ first game at state, and seven in their championship loss to Billings West. In between she had two points and three rebounds against Billings Skyview — but played denial defense the second half against the Falcons’ wunderkind, Breanna Williams.

Same thing.

So it goes for teams that get their second-ever state trophy (Glacier’s boys won it all in 2017) or their first championship berth since 2001 (the Bravettes are now 2-5 in title games, all time).

It takes some depth.

That said, Billings West’s girls were taller and deeper. The Bears’ 48-43 win over Flathead was not a celebration of shooting skill but, as Bravettes’ coach Sam Tudor said, “Sometimes the defense and rebounding, like you saw tonight, is as good as it gets.”

The cold shooting down the stretch — at one point Flathead rebounded its own miss three times in four possessions, but couldn’t convert — was finally broken by the other team.

The Bravettes surrounded junior stalwart Kennedy Moore with four seniors. Junior Celie VandenBosch played by far the most minutes off the bench. Up 41-37, perhaps they ran out of gas.

“We were just getting ready to put the throttle down, and then they hit a couple threes,” Tudor said afterward. “We didn’t have the depth really to compete with the depth that they had. I have to give it to those — I think I played seven (Saturday) — but I have to give it to those. … six. For them to do their run this year was an honor to be a part of.”

Conversely, Glacier coach Mark Harkins had nine seniors. It’s not reasonable to play all nine, but he did go deep into his bench, with Tyler McDonald leading the reserves. It should surprise no one that point guard Ty Olsen and center Noah Dowler played the most minutes at state.

Like the Bravettes, Glacier went cold for a stretch late in a loss to Billings West. That was in Friday’s semifinals; the good news is the Pack got to end the season with a win.

No such chance for Flathead’s girls, who had pulled out several close victories this season, including the semifinal win in which Maddy Moy poured in 17 points (not 14 as the stats crew had it).

There were so many tight wins, in fact, that at least one deadline-conscious writer didn’t mind Tudor calling a timeout down five with 4 seconds left Saturday.

“There were just a couple times at the end where I just felt we still had a chance,” he said afterward. “I’d seen it all year long.”

He wasn’t the only one. A five-point play? It seemed like anything was possible with the Bravettes, right up until it wasn’t.

Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 758-4463 or fneighbor@dailyinterlake.com.