For the first time all night, the Metlakatla girls appeared unsure of themselves.
Runners up to Craig in last year’s tournament, now a ladder had been wheeled out beneath the net on the east end of the Juneau-Douglas high school gymnasium, ready for the MissChiefs to begin cutting down the net, but the players stood shyly at the side of the court, waiting for direction.
Finally Metlakatla coach Tim Shaw walked toward the ladder and called his players over, “you want a piece of this, you got to come get it.”
The MissChiefs went out and got the Southeast 2A girls championship on Thursday, beating defending state champion Craig 38-31 in a close battle between Southern Southeast rivals.
“I don’t even know what to say right now,” Shaw said. “It is definitely something I’ve never felt before, the way these girls came together. They fought and they pushed themselves to new limits.”
Metlakatla led 21-16 at the half and never trailed in the second half, but Craig made several pushes.
The Panthers cut the lead to 31-30 on a 3-point basket from Katie Dinon with 2:40 to play.
Metlakatla then finished the game on a 7-1 run, benefiting from a little bit of good fortune on their next possession when Kailee Smith lost control of the ball while driving the lane, but had the ball bounce right into the hands of Monica Henderson, who laid it up and in for a 33-30 advantage.
A steal and breakaway layup by Smith with 20.8 seconds left accounting for the final score of the game, and Alecia Henderson fittingly ended the game with a blocked shot.
Henderson was a force inside all day for the MissChiefs, deflecting or changing almost every shot attempt Craig had in the paint.
Offensively, Metlakatla got a balanced scoring effort with Henderson leading the way with 10 points. Holly Guthrie and Smith each finished with nine points and Theresa Wellington-McGilton scored eight, and Alecia Henderson 2.
“I think we always felt, from Day 1, that these guys were a good team,” Shaw said. “I think they managed to pull it together right when they need to do it.”
Katie Dinon led Craig with nine points. Aspen Hansen finished with eight, Maggie Dinon scored seven, Marie Yates 4, and Kimber Mikeuleky 3.