If the final score of a basketball game added on the effort of a team, then the Thunder Mountain High School girls would be up by 20 when the buzzer sounds.
Playing undersized in the Thunderdome Shootout when their tallest player left the team earlier in the week, the Falcons battled down to the wire with a physical West Anchorage team on Friday night before falling 58-45.
“I thought we came out with enthusiasm and strong intensity from the get-go,” TMHS coach Tanya Nizich said. “I felt pretty good about them carrying that throughout the game.”
Called up from the junior varsity to fill the roster spot vacated by post Makayla Pierce, freshmen Cheyenne Ekis and Noe Maka challenged the West defenders and filling Pierce’s center position, Ashley Young played three classes more aggressive than her freshman status, scoring a team high 14 points including eight in the final period.
“Mainly because my coach told me too,” Young said of her increased physical presence in the paint. “I am not used to playing against so many bigger and more physical opponents, but you have to be physical right back in this league. That is basically it.”
Ekis, Maka and Young tallied the eight to seven first quarter advantage by the Falcons. Jonelle Staveland and Kinsey Marshall joined in on the scoring fun in the second period as the normally turnover happy Falcons calmly passed through the West full court press. The teams were even at 21 for the break.
“There are going to be ups and downs throughout the game,” Nizich said. “It is just a matter of fighting through it and getting back out on top. We had a period where they scored a couple baskets right in a row and our momentum kind of slowed down. But I was pleased with the heart and hustle they put out there.”
Ekis and Staveland drained deep threes in the third period but the Eagles went on a series of small runs using their quick guards and a trapping half court defense to open a 41-29 advantage starting the final period.
Michaela Demmert, Shayla Reeves, Staveland and Young went to the line multiple times as they attacked the hoop in the fourth quarter and the Falcons played West even to the buzzer.
“We had a lot better passing tonight,” Nizich said. “Our free throws were better. Most of our trouble came from dribbling with our head down and getting trapped in the half court. We learned a lot in this game against an aggressive team. And our girls like to play physical and it gets their head in the game when there is a little bit of pushing and shoving.”
Staveland added eight points for the Falcons, Ekis seven, Demmert five, Reeves, Maka and Marshall three each, and Emily Winters two.
Shiccia Harris-Grant led the Eagles with 12 points, Chanel Bookert and Chimira Cockerham 10 apiece, Anatasia LaVern-Tosi eight, Cristal Nidoy seven, Chanelle Zamora five, Aliisa Korkiamaki three, Alejandra Rojas two, and Cheryl Nidoy one.
Thunder Mountain hit 16-25 at the charity stripe, West went 14-27.
Also on Friday:
Palmer girls 43, West Valley 37
Palmer’s Kasara Brandenburg scored seven of her team-high 13 points and West Valley’s Hannah Mattson scored seven of her game-high 14, in a 12-9 Moose first quarter advantage. The Wolfpack rallied for a 13-10 second period to tie the score at the break but a four point third quarter doomed West Valley as sharp shooting Taylor Blake added nine of her 11 Moose points in the second half. Rachael Huffman and Anna Koehn added seven each for Palmer, and Caitlin Scott five.
Sara Hajdukovich added seven to the West Valley total, Caitlin Brice, Carlee Marques, Jill Phillips and Marina Washburn four each.
Palmer hit 15-30 at the line, West Valley 11-18.
Up next for TMHS is a tournament at East Anchorage Jan. 19-21.