What do the dates January 3 and February 22 have in common?
Before you go digging through your encyclopedia (do those still exist outside of school libraries?!), let me break the spell for you. The two dates are the days on the calendar in which the Missoula Sentinel boys’ basketball team earned their third wins of the season in each of the last two years.
The Spartans did so just this Friday (Jan. 3) with a 57-55 victory over last year’s Western AA front-runner Kalispell Glacier to improve to 3-2 on the young season.
Needless to say, there’s been a whole lot of improvement between Jay Jagelski’s first and second seasons at the helm of the Spartans.
“It’s really relieving. We started out slow last year,” said Sentinel forward Chase Walker, providing a dramatic understatement, “so it’s really nice to already be at three wins.”
Last winter it took Sentinel until its 20th (!) game of the season to reach the mark. It also happened to be the team’s only league victory, a 40-39 squeaker over Helena Capital. That Feb. 22 game fell on the final day of the regular season.
Sentinel would fall to those same Bruins a few days later in a play-in game to state as the West’s No. 7 seed and finish the season at 3-18 in a forgettable campaign.
The 2013-14 Spartans at are this point already in part because of the hard-knock learning experience of yesteryear, Jagelski said following Sentinel’s victory over Glacier this week.
“These boys have worked extremely hard and we knew when we were coming back for this next year and going into the summer that these boys had some potential and could be a good team,” the coach said.
Sentinel returned three starters — one of whom co-led the team in scoring last year in Austin Violette (8.3 ppg) — and added some key newcomers like Quaizhon Walker. Off to a markedly better start to this season and with the frustrations of last year behind them, this team could make some noise.
“Our team is motivated now, they got their heads on right and we’re confident,” Quaizhon Walker said with a smile. “So look out for Sentinel.”