MISSOULA — The seventh-seeded Kalispell Glacier Wolfpack sent a shock wave through Class AA on Tuesday evening, as Keifer Spohnhauer's layup as the buzzer sounded punched the Wolfpack's ticket to the State AA boys basketball tournament with a 45-43 victory over No. 2-seed Missoula Hellgate, one of two defending Class AA co-champions.
Hellgate had the ball with 21.7 seconds to go but Beckett Arthur's driving layup missed the mark. Noah Dowler grabbed the rebound and found Ty Olsen, who then fired a bullet up the court to a streaking Spohnhauer, who converted the layup just before regulation ended to seal the win for Glacier and send the Wolfpack bench into a frenzy.
"I saw Ty getting the rebound and I looked at the clock behind me and noticed there was four seconds," Spohnhauer said. "I just realized I had to go fast for a layup and I got the ball and I just went for it. I didn't even see it go in. I hit the backboard over there and saw everyone flipping out and I realized it went in and it was an amazing moment."
Jaxson Olsen led Glacier (7-8) with 10 points while Dowler added eight and Spohnhauer and Colin Presnell each finished with seven. The win sends Glacier to the State AA tournament for the first time since the 2017-18 season.
Hellgate was led by Arthur and Brogan Callaghan who each scored 11 points for the Knights (10-5). It will be the first time Hellgate has missed the state tournament under head coach Jeff Hays, who took over the program in 2010-11. Hellgate last missed state in 2009-10.
"(The conversations) are really hard after a tough loss like that," Hays said. "I thought Glacier played very well. They played hard, they played physical. We didn't quite match that intensity and physicality. I didn't think it was a good matchup for us and they played well.
"I feel bad for the seniors and I thanked them for their efforts. Hopefully our juniors and our sophomores can learn from this experience."
The game was back and forth all the way, as Glacier led just 24-22 at halftime. The game was tied 35-35 heading into the final quarter.
The State AA tournament is March 10-13 in Great Falls. The last time the tournament was in Great Falls in 2016-17, the Wolfpack won their first boys basketball title in school history.
"I'm incredibly proud of my kids (Tuesday) for competing," Glacier coach Mark Harkins said. "They took off at the end in the last three seconds. We talked about it in the huddle, I said, 'If we get the rebound I want you to go. If we need a timeout I'll call it.' And they did, they just took off and it worked out well for us. (Spohnhauer) hit a great shot. All game long I thought the guys just competed hard.
"It was the best defense we played all year I think and I'm just so proud of their effort."