MISSOULA — As Drew Engellant collected the ball near the free-throw line, the Kalispell Glacier junior knew he needed to attack the basket as time wound down in a tie game.
Engellant drove down the right side of the lane, pivoted at the block and spun into the middle of the lane. He elevated a floater over Missoula Big Sky’s McKee Muralt, and the ball swished through the net with three seconds remaining.
“Coach told me to attack and make something happen, so I drove to the basket and did my spin move,” Engellant said. “I’ve shot that shot a thousand times before. I rose up and it went in. It was a great shot.”
Engellant’s shot proved to be the game winner as the Wolfpack erased a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit to pull out a 54-52 win over the Eagles on Tuesday at Big Sky High School. Glacier improved to 2-4 overall and 1-0 in conference play, while Big Sky dropped to 1-7, 0-2.
Engellant scored nine of his team-high 15 points in the final frame, during which Glacier outscored Big Sky 21-12. He grabbed nine rebounds, also a team high.
“This was one of the first games where I’ve seen him become a guy that was demanding the basketball,” Glacier head coach Mark Harkins said. “Usually, he’ll play through the offense. But today he was basically down there saying, ‘Give me the ball.’ I like that. That was some growth for him in that regard.”
Glacier outworked Big Sky on the glass, collecting 35 rebounds to the Eagles’ 24. The offensive rebounds helped lead the Wolfpack to second-chance points, including Engellant’s game winner.
With the game tied 52-52 and 24.2 seconds left, Engellant missed two free throws, but teammate Ethan Baines rebounded the second miss, his sixth rebound of the game. Baines was fouled, earned two free throws, missed them both but teammate Cole Crosby got the rebound on the second miss for his fifth rebound.
After timeouts by both teams, the Wolfpack inbounded the ball with 9.9 seconds left. Engellant collected the inbounds pass, reset the ball to Drew Deck and got the ball back at the high post and was ready to make his move.
“We challenged them at the half because we weren’t rebounding well," Harkins said. "I thought Drew, Ethan, our guards rebounded well. Bret Michaels got some nice rebounds. The team responded to a challenge at halftime to go harder to the glass.”
In the first half, Big Sky used a 10-0 run to build a 26-22 lead. The Eagles upped that to 40-33 after three quarters and led until Glacier’s Michael Schwarz made a 3-pointer to put the Wolfpack up 44-43 with 4:45 left.
The teams combined for two lead changes and two ties after that. Big Sky had a chance to lengthen a 3-point lead but missed two free throws and finished 6 of 14 at the charity stripe. Glacier's Bret Michaels made four free throws in the fourth quarter and finished with 13 points.
“If we would have gotten some rebounds, knocked down our free throws, it shouldn’t have come down to that,” Big Sky head coach Cory Sova said. “Our effort’s there. But we’ve still got habits of watching the ball instead of blocking out a man. They’re a very physical team as well. We got to do a better job of that. That’s AA basketball in Montana.”
Big Sky junior Camdyn LaRance finished with a game-high 23 points. Teammate Daniel Morin added 12 points but missed a 3-pointer from half court at the final buzzer.
“We had only five turnovers, so I think any coach would take that against multiple defenses,” Sova said of his takeaways. “We gave up really no transition layups. We shot a pretty nice percentage from the perimeter. We got the ball better inside tonight, which was something we challenged them to do.”