Helena High shot its way to a big first-half lead, then held off the No. 5 seed Wolfpack to claim a 46-30 first-round victory in the Western AA Divisional boys basketball tournament on Thursday afternoon at Glacier High School.
The No. 4 seed Bengals (10-9 overall) came out firing. With the game tied 5-5 early in the first quarter, Pierce Brown knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers as part of an 11-0 Helena run.
Helena led 16-7 to begin the second quarter, and Connor Murgel opened with a 3, followed by another quick-release triple from Brown.
Brown had four of Helena’s six first-half 3s as the Bengals went into halftime with a 31-13 advantage.
Glacier coach Mark Harkins said his team had issues with defensive execution in the first two quarters.
“All week [we said] it’s about finding those two shooters, and we let them go off ... that’s not executing,” he said.
On the offensive end for Glacier (5-14), Michael Schwarz hit an early triple, and Drew Engellant muscled his way to four points in the paint in the second quarter. But the Wolfpack missed numerous open looks from long-range and struggled inside against a physical Bengals team.
“We just missed shots ... I think we had a lot of really good looks and we just didn’t convert,” Harkins said.
“We’ve had several games in a row where we’ve struggled to shoot, and then they put that much more pressure on themselves to hit shots. We’ve got to be loose.”
The Bengals cooled off after the break, with Murgel’s triple on the opening possession the only Helena 3-pointer in the half.
But the Wolfpack never got its offense going. Ethan Baines had four points on two field goals in the third, Glacier’s only field goals of the frame.
“You know when you play Helena High it is going to be physical. And they have some really nice athletes that are so strong, and I thought our kids responded pretty well,” Harkins said.
The Wolfpack outscored the Bengals 17-15 in the second half.
Schwarz led the Wolfpack with seven points, and Drew Deck added five.
Brown had a game-high 12 points — all from his triples in the first half — and Murgel finished with 10.
Glacier will get the day off tomorrow before playing a loser-out game on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Helena will meet Missoula Hellgate (17-1) in a semifinal battle today at 5 p.m.
The top four teams advance to the state tournament in Butte March 7-9.
Glacier 7 6 7 10 – 30
Helena High 16 15 6 9 – 46
GLACIER – Drew Deck 5, Ethan Baines 4, KJ Johnson 3, Weston Price 3, Drew Engellant 4, Michael Schwarz 7, Bret Michaels 4.
HELENA – Sam Norum 2, Alex Johnson 3, Hayden Ferguson 6, Carson Woodland 6, Pierce Brown 12, Logan Brown 3, Connor Murgel 10, Holden Sampson 4.