The Thunder Mountain High School Falcons boy’s basketball team went the distance in the championship game of the 2013 Alaska Airlines Classic basketball tournament at Anchorage’s West High School.
The only Alaskan team to win their first matchup to advance to the semifinals and then the title game, the Falcons met the pre-tournament favorite from Alabama’s Hoover High School in a high speed Saturday night shootout, falling 70-45 to talented Buccaneers.
“They controlled the game the entire time,” TMHS coach John Blasco said of the Buccaneers, ranked 3rd in the state of Alabama for 6A schools and boasting a 21-0 record. “They are a better team by far. We just couldn’t keep up with them physically.”
The Falcons tried to slow the game down as they had in the opening two tourney wins, but turnovers, low energy and a hot shooting opponent (7-11 from beyond the arch in the first half) put TMHS down 20-9 starting the second stanza and 38-25 at the half.
The game was tied twice in the first quarter, at two all and at five apiece. Nine turnovers in the first quarter kept momentum away from the Falcons.
“Our energy level was just down,” Blasco said. “They just built a commanding lead and never let go of it.”
Hoover led 50-33 starting the final period and by 28 points with a minute remaining in the game.
TMHS seniors Sam Jahn and Matt Seymour scored game highs of 19 and 16 points, respectively, and Ben Jahn added six points and three rebounds but Hoover shot 48-percent from the floor and 55-percent from three-point land in the win.
Travis Johnson and Jacob Calloway added two points each and Vili Tupou had a game high five assists. The Falcons hit 9-10 at the free throw line, Hoover went 14-22.
Michael Wiesneth led Hoover with 14 points Brannon Defore added 13, Kimani Walker and Leonard wood 10 each, Q. Hardy seven, Eric Adams and Alex May five each, Jaylen Nails and Kaleb Baugh three apiece.
Seymour, S. Jahn and V. Tupou were selected to the all-tournament team.
“It was a huge experience from the standpoint of the competition level,” Blasco said of the tournament. “Not only playing the top in state teams but some very elite teams from down south. Not only playing against them but also getting to watch them play. We definitely learned a lot in terms of the ability we have and the things we can do to play to our strengths, and how to analyze what to capitalize on opponents weaknesses.”
In other final day action Florida’s Sagemont H.S. downed Louisiana’s Northwood 67-30, Service topped Dimond 76-55 and West nipped Eagle River 59-58.
57-56 overtime thriller lifted Falcons into championship
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) 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 had 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 was 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. We are just taking one game at a time 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, a top tournament team, and play in a championship against a national quality 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.