The Sitka High School Wolves boy’s basketball team overcame an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to stun the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears 65-59 in the nightcap game of the 22nd Annual Capital City Classic on Thursday night at JDHS gym.
“We came back from 19 down in the fourth quarter at Thunder Mountain,” Sitka coach Andy Lee said. “And we got it to three. So we have character and it revealed itself at the worst time. It has to reveal itself at better times; we have to be able to sustain it. It is a growing thing. We are pleased but not satisfied.”
The difference in the Thunder Mountain game is that Sitka lost. The Wolves scratched and clawed their way back into Thursday’s game against JDHS, scoring 29 points in the stanza to 12 for the Crimson Bears.
Sitka senior Jon De La Cruz started the run with a string of six straight points.
Each time the Wolves drew close JDHS responded.
Sophomore Adam Empson dished off to classmate Bruce Jones to push the lead to nine.
Sitka’s Brian Way and De La Cruz brought the score within three, 51-48, at the 4:15 mark and Oscar Barragan scored two of his biggest, and only, buckets to pull the Wolves within one at 51-50 and 53-52.
Jones scored between the two tallies for the Crimson Bears.
When Keith Ainsworth ripped a rebound from Sitka’s grasp and laid it in the momentum had turned again.
Way closed for Sitka again, hitting on a put back and then being fouled on a defensive rebound and sinking two from the charity stripe for a 56-55 lead. De La Cruz scored on a back door cut after a JDHS turnover for a three-point cushion with 1:44 remaining.
Empson kept JDHS within two with a pair of free throws with under a minute remaining but Barragan fed Way on a back door cut for an easy deuce and De La Cruz notched another pair of freebies. Empson again took charge, floating a soft shot high over the Sitka defense for his team high 20th point and the Crimson Bears last bucket.
“I like to keep it calm out there when there is a lot of pressure,” Empson said. “I like to work the offense in the high pressure situations.”
Forced to foul, JDHS watched Sitka’s AJ Inman sink three of four in the last 17 seconds for the win.
In the first half JDHS senior Gary Speck played a huge roll on the boards and Ainsworth hit for five points as JDHS battled to stay within four, 15-11, starting the second period.
Empson tallied eight points in the second period as the pressing Crimson Bears outscored the Wolves 16-7 and took a 27-22 lead into the break. Empson hit for six more thin the third period and Speck four as JDHS countered 10 points from Sitka’s Inman in the stanza.
“I just try to move the ball around, screen, and once you get open make the shot,” Empson said. “Then keep working on defense, play better and play harder.”
Ainsworth added 14 points for JDHS, Speck eight, Aquino Brinson six, Jeff Pusich and Jones four apiece, and Dar Hodge-Campos three.
Way led Sitka with a game high points, AJ Inman 16, De La Cruz 15, Joey Inman five, Barragan four and Kendrick Payton three. The Crimson Bears went 9-16 at the charity stripe, Sitka 17-26.
“We have won a couple games in a row and every one is sweeter,” Lee said. “But to come over here with a group of juniors and have them come together as a team and do it with teamwork and poise... that means as much as who we beat.”
Sitka will play East, a 77-54 winner over West Valley, at 3 p.m. today. JDHS plays West Valley at 7 p.m. tonight. Shooting contests are at 11 a.m.