Ty Grussendorf drained his second three-pointer from beyond the arch midway through the final period and a new Falcons team made a major statement on the young basketball season.
They will not back down.
The Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball team didn’t back down from aggressive West Valley from Fairbanks in their opening game of the 2012 Thunderdome Shootout, trapping the Wolfpack in a 55-45 winning snare.
“I just tried to stay strong,” Falcons’ forward Ben Jahn said. “My shots weren’t falling so I tried to focus on rebounding. These guys only brought seven players so we were trying to rebound strong and push the ball up court.”
Using a 1-3-1 press the Falcons slowed the normally spirited Wolfpack and attacked the hoop when they had possession to take a 13-10 first quarter lead.
“We are starting to come together a little bit,” TMHS head coach John Blasco said. “We are looking more fluid on our offense. The more games you play the more comfortable you get with each other and that’s what we started to see up in Kodiak.”
The Falcons knew whom to look for in the game as they routinely fed Matt Seymour and Ty Grussendorf when they were hot.
“And the Tupou’s have more confidence to penetrate which opens up the wings more,” Blasco said. “I think we are feeling more confident in each other. The more defensive pressure we have the better our offense will be.”
Seymour scored six of his game-high 17 points by draining two straight shots from past the arch to give the Falcons a 28-26 advantage mid-way through the third and Vili Tupou put in two off the glass for 30.
West Valley’s Jordan Rodenberger countered with a three of his own and the back-and-forth action was on.
Tupou passed to Avery Stewart for a 36-33 lead as the buzzer sounded ending the period.
Tupou stole the ball to start the fourth and Seymour scored on a put back. The Falcons pressure forced two more turnovers and Travis Johnson cached in on a break and a 40-33 lead. Tupou drained a three for a 10-point advantage.
A huge rebound from Ben Jahn and a pass up court for a Ty Grussendorf trey gave the Falcons a 46-35 cushion at the six-minute mark.
“They have one guy under six foot and I have quite a few,” Blasco said. “We talked about that, about ripping the ball through for a rebound and attack. I am glad they did not back down from the physical pressure.”
Thunder Mountain dropped back into a 2-3 zone to switch up the defense while West Valley went full court.
Leading 49-41 at the three minute mark the Falcons spread the floor and Seymour drove the lane for a floater to entice the crowd into a chant and a 51-41 advantage.
The Falcon blasted through the Wolfpack press and found Johnson open underneath to keep a 10-point cushion in the final two minutes.
Yet the new Falcons team did not crumble or play timid but attacked the basket down the stretch as Johnson received another length of the court score.
Johnson added 12 points for the Falcons, Grussendorf and Vili Tupou nine apiece, Mike Uddipa three, Stewart and Josh Tupou two each. Kade Campbell led the Wolfpack with 17 points and Trevor Baker-Reynolds added 12.
Thunder Mountain hit 2 of 6 from the charity stripe and West Valley 4 of 9.
Palmer 56, Mt. Edgecumbe 26
In other opening round boys play the Palmer Moose ran past the Mt. Edgecumbe Braves 56-26 Friday evening.
Jared Straight led the Moose with 16 points, Connor Looney added 10, Brian Selmer eight, Jackson Buresh and Thomas Matik six apiece, James Nisbett four and Hayden Niekamp two.
The Braves had just three players in the scoring column. Dominique Hall tallied ten points, Kacy Green and Jaylin Prince eight apiece.
The game was tight after a first period score of 8-6 Palmer, which the Moose increased to 20-12 at the half. The Moose scored 15 and 17 in the final two periods while the Braves went for nine and five.
Mt. Edgecumbe was 2-8 from the charity stripe while Palmer shot just three times from the line and hit one. Palmer out shot the Braves 51-24 from the field.