The Sitka High School Wolves boy’s basketball team added to the legend of excitement of the Capital City Classic with a 68-63 double overtime win over Fairbank’s West Valley Wolfpack on Saturday.
“This is the toughest schedule that we have ever had,” Sitka senior Jon De La Cruz said. “We haven’t had any easy wins but we are getting better each game so we are looking forward to what we can accomplish by the season’s end.”
The game was polar opposites for Sitka and West Valley. The Wolfpack relied on the clutch outside shooting of freshman all tourney selection Daniel Hornbuckle (game high 23 points) and junior all tourney selection Jason Gordon (10 points), while Sitka found strength in the painted lane play of 6-foot-five all tourney selection Brian Way.
Way scored nine of his team high 22 points in the extra two sessions and four of the last five in the fourth quarter to force extra glasses of Gatorade all around the Wolves huddle.
With the fourth quarter beginning at 42-42, De La Cruz and Way scored all but one point in the period to keep pace with the hot shooting Wolfpack. De La Cruz (19 points) put down two charity stripers to start the fourth. Way responded to a deep triple from Hornbuckle with three straight post ups inside.
“I just try to seal the guy behind me and get the ball,” Way said.
With 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter De La Cruz put a nice pass into the hands of freshman Tevin Bayne who was fouled and made a free-throw to knot the score. Hornbuckle shot at the eight-second mark bounced out and started the first extra four minutes.
De La Cruz scored on a follow to take a 58-56 lead. The Wolfpack’s Gordon scored an “and one” to take a 59-58 advantage. On the next possession De La Cruz fed Bayne backdoor with 1:20 remaining for a 60-59 lead. Hornbuckle came right back for West Valley with a deep triple.
With 16 seconds remaining Way fought for inside position and put in a nice up and under move for the tie and when Hornbuckle’s shot went down and back out forcing another extra stanza.
With Sitka up 66-63, the Wolfpack’s Daniel Remington drew his 5th whistle of the game and the Wolves went into a spread offense.
Junior AJ Inman was fouled and hit the two biggest free throws of the night for a five point, two-possession, margin at 68-63.
A last second technical resulted in two free throws by West Valley’s Gordon and a long shot at the buzzer that missed.
“This competition has been pretty tough,” Way said. “They are all 4A teams. We just did what we could.”
Sitka led 11-6 to start the second quarter. With the game tied at 13 Hornbuckle picked the ‘Pack up on his back and willed them to a second quarter advantage with a string of plays.
Hornbuckle drove to the key and pulled up over the towering Sitka front line for a soft jumper, stole the ball on the press and dished off to junior Danny Egan for a score, stole the ball again and was fouled, sinking one of two from the charity stripe.
Sitka kept pace with baskets by juniors Kendrick Payton and AJ Inman.
Hornbuckle was fouled on the next Wolfpack possession as well and sank both freebies for a 20-17 advantage. Free throws by junior Forrest Clark (6 pts) stretched the lead to 24-17. Way went off glass for two and Inman downed a deep triple as Sitka closed to 24-22 at the break.
“The key to the game was just trying to stay mentally strong,” De La Cruz said. “It has been a long early season in a way. We have had a lot of games in a short amount of time so we are pretty tired and staying mentally strong is the toughest thing right now.”
Sitka’s win gave them a 2-1 tourney record, tying them with JDHS. East won the title with a 2-1 mark via the point margin of victories.
All tourney selection AJ Inman added 11 points and nine boards for Sitka, Kendrick Peyton nine points, Quentin White three, Oscar Barragan and Joey Inman two. The Wolves hit14-29 at the line, the Wolfpack 12-15
Charles Sudduth added nine points for West Valley, Damon Gordon seven, Danny Egan five, Daniel Remington three and Evan Colbert two.