If you have not purchased your plane ticket to Anchorage, get it now and get on the first flight out to West High School to watch the Thunder Mountain Falcons boy’s basketball team play Alabama’s Hoover High School in the Alaska Airlines Classic championship game tonight.
Falcons’ senior Vili Tupou tipped in teammate Sam Jahn’s missed shot at the extra stanza buzzer Friday night for a 57-56 semifinal win over Shreveport, Louisiana’s Northwood High School.
“They were fast and strong,” Thunder Mountain coach John Blasco said. “They had a point guard that dropped 24 on us and a big man that dominated West on Thursday.”
That would be division I college recruits Martavious Washington and Terrance Walker.
Two recruits that ran into TMHS’ Matt Seymour and S. Jahn and a fired up Falcons team looking for respect.
“Coach told us before the game that we have to want more,” Vili Tupou said. “After we beat Dimond he said we couldn’t be satisfied. We tried to come out as hard as we could today against Louisiana and we did.”
Northwood, also claiming the Falcons mascot, were the favorite to advance. Their 9-11 record has come against some of the powerhouse schools in Louisiana.
TMHS (9-3) just added to that resume.
Seymour hit three deep shots from beyond the arch for nine of his game-high 27 points in the first quarter and Jahn put in three baskets for six of his 15 game points.
Northwood’s Washington also buried three triples in the quarter, on his way to 24 points.
Jahn drew two fouls on Walker and the Norwood big man would have limited first half action.
“That was key for us,” Blasco said. “Walker really hurt West Anchorage the night before. He is a big time player. They are a really good ball club; they were a lot faster than us. Our goal was to slow the game down and not let them make it into a running game.”
TMHS played a zone defense for the majority of the game to force outside shots and Norwood went man to speed up the game.
“I would say we controlled most of the game,” Blasco said. “But it was always close. We wanted to keep the possessions down and the scoring down.”
The largest lead of the game was four points, with TMHS up 14-10 in the first period, and Northwood closed it to 17-15 starting the second quarter.
There were 19 lead changes in the game and nine ties.
TMHS lead 27-25 at the half and 42-40 starting the fourth quarter.
Seymour tallied his sixth three of the night to tie the score at 50 all with a minute remaining.
Norwood held the ball for a last shot that missed. TMHS got the rebound and called timeout. Their pass to half court and a tip pass on for a shot missed forcing the extra four minutes of play.
In overtime Jahn scored inside and Seymour hit his seventh three for a 55-53 lead. Norwood penetrated and kicked the ball outside to Hunter Bagley who buried a triple with 6.4 seconds remaining for a one-point advantage.
The Falcons drew up an inbounds play to catch the ball on the run. Josh Tupou made the catch and pushed the ball up court to S. Jahn for a nice look inside. Jahn’s shot missed and V. Tupou tipped it in at the buzzer for a trip to the title game tonight.
“It felt great,” Tupou said. “I was out for most of the game but coming back for a buzzer beater felt really good.”
Tupou, in foul trouble most of the game, made the most of his limited playing time, tallying four points, three rebounds and five assists in 16 minutes of work.
“It is kind of weird,” Tupou said. “When I foul a lot I do good. That is a bad ratio but it is true.”
It is the second big win in as many nights for the Falcons, who knocked off the defending state champion Dimond Lynx on Thursday.
“This is huge to win against a team from out of state that you know nothing about,” Blasco said. “Except you watched them play one game and they completely blew out their competition. It was definitely nice to get this W. It was pretty crazy.”
It can only get crazier as the Falcons will play Alabama’s Hoover Buccaneers (20-0), a 75-59 winner over Florida’s Sagemont Lions in the other semifinal.
“We are just taking one game at a time,” Blasco said. “But we are definitely just enjoying the moment.”
For the Falcons, who have been together since the school first put wax on the gym floor, the bonding moments just continue to get more special. First they knock off a top state-ranked team and now a top tournament team.
“This is our fourth year playing together,” Tupou said. “We have a bunch of good chemistry and our coach told us ever since we started that we have to prove something to everybody.”
Ben Jahn had a game-high 10 rebounds and added five points for TMHS, Mike Uddipa scored four. Josh Tupou led with a game-high eight assists and added two points. TMHS hit 6-14 at the charity stripe, Northwood 19-26. Angelo Robert added eight points for Northwood, Walker seven points and eight rebounds, Trey Walker five points, Kwaumee McGee and Bagley four each, James Lovelace and Jerrick Peterson two apiece.