The game started well for the Thunder Mountain High School girl’s basketball team as they overcame an early 7-1 deficit to the visiting West Anchorage Eagles to take the first two quarters of play 26-21. But just two field goals in the second half doomed the Falcons to more time spent on the defensive end of the court leading to a 41-35 defeat.
“We just need to finish the game,” Thunder Mountain coach Tanya Nizich said. “The lack of effort in the last three-and-a-half minutes of the game was not what we do. That is not how I have seen the last nine games go. We didn’t hustle, our minds were going but our feet weren’t moving. I don’t think we came with the full preparation that we did in the last nine games on the road.”
The Falcons started the same way, committing four turnovers and missing three free throws in the first three minutes of play.
West used the inside play of sophomore Theyoung Puoy and the outside triple of senior Chamira Cockerham to take the early six-point lead.
Sophomore Ava Tompkins brought Thunder Mountain back to speed with two baskets and passed to Ashley Young to close within two at 9-7.
Junior Cheyenne Ekis stole a pass and converted a layup to tie the score at nine all and senior Michaela Demmert hit her first of four triples in the game for the 12-9 quarter advantage.
Demmert would connect on two straight from beyond the arch to open the second quarter, giving the Falcons an 18-13 advantage.
“I am just trying to add points to the board,” Demmert said. “It gets our team up and their mind in the game. We still need to box out and have a consistent mindset and not let something bring us down. If I am not hitting I try to look for the open player.”
The Falcons still committed seven turnovers in the second stanza and the Eagles used the extra possessions to close within three on baskets by Puoy and junior Marshals Eady. When Eady hit a free throw to make it 23-21 Falcons, Demmert connected on her third triple of the period with 1.6 seconds remaining to give Thunder Mountain the 26-21 edge.
“When Demmert is on she is on,” Nizich said. “That is what I love about her. We just need that same energy and consistency from the second quarter to play the rest of the game. Somewhere along the line we just stopped working hard.”
West upped their defensive pressure and the tempo of the game in the second half, but were patient on the offensive end.
“It was exactly what I thought it would be,” West coach Stanley Engel said. “Thunder Mountain is a very good team. I knew it would be tough. We usually play pretty fundamental basketball. We have a good post player and a good shooting guard and point guard. We got a little impatient. Being from Anchorage we are not used to playing in front of so many people and with a band, it was a wake up call for us.”
The Falcons scored two baskets in the second half, both in the third quarter by Tompkins and Young, surrendering the lead 34-30 starting the final period.
While their baskets didn’t fall in the fourth quarter, the Falcons went to the free throw line and hit 5-10 to stay in the hunt for the win. Young would foul out midway though the final eight minutes of play.
Two free throws by Tompkins pulled the Falcons to 36-34 with two minutes remaining but West senior Channel Bookert scored and forced a time out.
Tompkins added another free throw but drew her fourth foul and Ekis added her fourth whistle as well. West hit one free throw and a basket by Puoy to end the game.
Demmert led the Falcons with 12 points, Tompkins added 11, Young had nine and Ekis added three. TMHS hit just 7-18 from the line; West went 9-16.
Puoy scored 17 for the Eagles, Cockerham and Bookert added eight, Eady had six and Fu’a Malaetia added two.
The Falcons girls host Ketchikan next weekend. West plays at JDHS tonight at 6:15 p.m. and Saturday at 6:15 p.m.