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Run and gun: Missoula Sentinel girls basketball races by Kalispell Glacier in fast-paced game

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Sentinel vs. Glacier girls basketball 10

Sentinel’s Emily McElmurry (23) grabs the ball on a fast break against Glacier’s Noah Fincher (22) during the Spartans' 53-49 win on Friday in Missoula.

MISSOULA — First-year Missoula Sentinel girls basketball coach Sarah Pfeifer knew the Kalispell Glacier Wolfpack were going to run and press Friday night, and she made sure her team was ready for it.

The Spartans worked on staying under control, which is a challenge at times for a speedy team full of track stars like Class AA state champ — and Montana Grizzlies track and field signee — Brooke Stayner.

The hosting Spartans and visiting Wolfpack traded scoring runs and big shots all game in a fast-paced showing that looked more like a track meet at times. The Spartans had the last run, though, as they went on a 13-0 burst against the Wolfpack in the fourth quarter to propel themselves to a 53-49 home win.

"I knew it was going to be fast paced because if there is one thing to describe Glacier, it's that they run," Pfeifer said. "They run and they press. We'd been working on staying under control and not giving into that chaos. For the most part, I thought that we did OK at it. We had a spurt there where we lost it for a second. 

"I was proud of their toughness and keeping their heads in the game and not getting down on some of those — especially that run at the beginning of the game, we kinda dug ourselves a hole," she added.

That opening run by the Wolfpack that Pfeifer alluded to came early in the first quarter, right after the Spartans had opened a 6-2 lead. Glacier rattled off seven straight points and had the momentum before Stayner hit teammate Lilly Allen for a bucket inside to make it 9-8 in favor of Glacier.

The Wolfpack built on that lead, though, to take a 16-10 advantage into the second quarter. The lead grew to 19-12, but the Spartans had an answer. Sparked by quick play, timely steals and heads-up passing by Stayner, the Spartans rallied to take a 27-23 lead into halftime. 

The first quarter went to Glacier, but the Spartans owned the second. But, in a game of scoring run after scoring run, the Wolfpack answered back in the third quarter with a 9-0 burst to take a 34-27 lead by the 6:27 mark, fueled by a 3-ball off the hands of Bethany Sorensen. 

But, the Spartans had another answer. Stayner canned a triple after teammate Emily McElmurry converted an and-1 to cut the deficit to 34-33.

The Spartans kept rallying to eventually lead 40-38, but a buzzer-beating trey by Sorensen sent the Wolfpack into the fourth quarter one top. Glacier kept the momentum rolling from the big shot and took a 44-43 lead in the fourth with 5:49 left.

The Spartans had one more answer.

Stayner and Olivia Huntsinger combined for a steal that led to a bucket for McElmurry and a one-point lead to ignite the final run. The Wolfpack nearly made a comeback, due to some misses at the charity line by the Spartans, but they missed 3-pointer, and timely steals sealed it for Sentinel.

"We knew it was going to be a dogfight from the beginning, super aggressive and was going to be physical," Stayner said. "And it has always been that way between Glacier and us, so it is always fun to get them down here. Glad they got here safe." 

Stayner finished with 14 points and dished out six assists, Huntsinger finished with 10 and McElmurry scored 12 as the trio led the Spartans. The Wolfpack were led by 16 points and a trio of treys by Sorensen. Sidney Gulick added nine points and Kiera Sullivan scored eight.

The Spartans lost to Kalispell Flathead Saturday afternoon, 53-51, to fall to 3-3 overall. 

Lance Hartzler covers Griz men's basketball and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter at @lance_hartz or shoot him an email at Lance.Hartzler@406mtsports.com.

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