The Thunder Mountain boys showed they are the new team on Juneau’s block by battling the Ketchikan Kings for the second time in three days and making the championship game of the Region V tournament with a 48-39 showcase win.
Using their patent running game the Falcons jumped out to a 14-12 first quarter lead as Villi Tupou canned a three-pointer and controlled the pressing Ketchikan Kings defense to dish off to Matt Seymour.
The Kings Travis Taylor tried to keep Kayhi in the game, scoring on two putbacks inside in the second period but the Falcons’ Ben Jahn was a beast inside. Jahn gave the Falcons a 19-14 lead in the second period.
Then the Kings’ Kyle Day took charge, driving the middle and scoring on a circus shot while fouled to pull his club to within two. Taylor tied the score at 19, the two Kings accounting for all of Ketchikan’s points. Taylor then put down two freethrows to give Ketchikan their first lead of the game. A turnover by TMHS and a fastbreak by KHS forced coach John Blasco to gather the Falcons in a time out.
The Falcons outscored the Kings 17-6 in the third period, regaining the lead at 35-32 with Tupou controlling the ball. Ty Grussendorf nailed a deep three to give the Falcons a 38-32 advantage with just 30 seconds remaining in the period. Day scored on a last second layup to draw the Kings within four at 38-34.
The Falcons defense limited the Kings to just one shot on a possession in the final stanza. Leading by five Ainsworth stole the ball from Day and scored on a breakaway layup just two minutes into the final period giving the Falcons a seven point advantage. Ketchikan didn’t score a basket in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter, drawing within nine at 45-36 wtih under a minute to play. Taylor scored with 48 seconds remaining to pull within seven but it was way too little and way too late.
Villi Tupou calmly sank a freethrow to push the lead to 46-38, and was back on the line to hit two more for 48-39 and complete a 10-6 final scoring edge. Ben Jahn led the Falcons with 10 points, Seymour eight, V. Tupou seven, S. Jahn, Grussendorf, and Ainsworth six each, J. Tupou three and Travis Johnson two. Taylor led the Kings with 21, Day had 14 and Mark Dulay five. The Falcons ahd 10 turnovers to the Kings 12.
The Kayhi girls basketball team had a full day to stew over Tuesday’s loss to Thunder Mountain in the opening game of the Southeast 3A region tournament and on Thursday the Lady Kings got defensive about it. Kayhi used a superb shutdown effort by senior guard Shiree Sells, as well as a solid press, to spark a 64-45 victory and stay alive in the region.
Kayhi faces Juneau-Douglas on Friday at 6:30 p.m. If Juneau-Douglas wins, they earn the region crown. If the Lady Kings win, a second title game will be played on Saturday at 7 p.m.
After her 16 fourth-quarter points help lift Thunder Mountain on Tuesday, Jonelle Staveland discovered that she had a shadow Thursday. Everywhere that Staveland went, Sells followed. Sells shadowed Staveland closely, not allowing her space to do anything. Staveland was held to three points in the game and didn’t hit a field goal while being defended by Sells.
“Shiree was our MVP today,” Kayhi coach Kelly Smith said. “The biggest difference tonight was Shiree Sells. That is one of the best defensive efforts I’ve seen in a long time. It was just a phenomenal effort. Jonelle is a great kid and she works hard. She never lets up, and Shiree was right with her the entire time.”
Staveland, who drained a pair of 3-point baskets at the start of the fourth quarter on Tuesday as the Falcons rallied from six down to earn a 49-42 victory, only got off one 3-point attempt on Thursday, missing a second-half shot.
“Oh my gosh, she just completely took Jonelle away from their team,” Kayhi senior Melissa Elliott said. “She’s a huge part of their whole game.”
Sells defended Staveland at times in Tuesday’s loss, but she drew the assignment fulltime for Thursday’s contest.
“(Tuesday) was the first time I had really had to guard here. It helped to kind of get her habits down,” Sells said. “I was just really excited to get in there and try to mix things up a bit. That was the goal, to try to keep her shots to a minimum.”
Sells played tight, aggressive defense by moving her feet and getting in position quickly so she didn’t have to foul. She finished with just one foul, hitting Staveland in the second quarter, which led to Staveland hitting 1 of 2 free throws. Staveland’s only other points in the game came during transition when she hit a layup over another Kayhi defender. Practicing on Wednesday, a Kayhi player filled the role of Staveland as Sells try to shut her down.
“Cassidy Patton was Jonelle,” Sells said. “Cassidy will shoot from anywhere.”
Not only did Sells excel on defense, she also led the Lady Kings with 15 points through a variety of outside shots, and baseline drives to the hoop. Jayley Taylor added 13 points for Kayhi, including five in the first period, while adding her steady contribution of steals. The Lady Kings pressed off-and-on during the game, forcing a number of turnovers that led to easy transition baskets. After trailing 12-9 late in the first quarter, Kayhi scored the final five points of the frame to build a 14-12 lead. The Lady Kings steadily pulled away to a 32-23 halftime lead, getting scoring contributions from throughout the lineup, including four key points from Inga Christesen. Kayhi frequently has lulls early in the second half of games, but there was no such lull on Thursday as the Lady Kings opened the half with a 9-1 run that gave them a 41-24 lead. Kayhi kept the lead at double digits the rest of the way.
“We had a couple of days to make some adjustments,” Smith said. “The girls did a really good job with the adjustments that we made. We got out there and were moving the ball better and going to the basket a little better. The big thing was our energy. And Shiree.”
While Staveland was shutdown by Sells, it looked like Thunder Mountain’s other main scoring weapon might hurt the Lady Kings early on Thursday. Freshman center Ashley Young scored her team’s first six points, working effectively right under the basket as the Falcons jumped to a 6-2 lead. Young had 11 points in the first half, but was shut down in the second half through the combination of foul trouble and the defense of Kayhi’s Mikayla Brown-Harrison. Young was held to one point in the second half. Young and senior Shale Kibby each had 12 points to lead Thunder Mountain. Siosi Tupo added eight points. Elliott added 12 points for the Lady Kings. Brown-Harrison scored nine, and Hannah Carson added seven. Sonja Christensen and Bayley Lindgren each scored two. After the Lady Kings looked rattled at times on Tuesday, they seemed in control all game Thursday.
“I think we just came out like we would for a regular-season game,” Elliott said. “On Tuesday we were almost feeling the pressure of it being the tournament. We came out a lot more aggressive and a lot more confident.
“We went out there and weren’t worried about fouls. We just played our game like we have the rest of the season.”
Kayhi next faces a Juneau-Douglas team that it went 1-3 against during the regular season, but played a couple of great games against in Ketchikan. Kayhi beat the Crimson Bears 54-47, then lost 77-72 in triple overtime in the Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium.
“We’re really excited to get another chance at them,” Sells said.