Heading into Saturday night’s game with Juneau-Douglas High School, the Palmer Moose were on pace to make 40 3-pointers in the Princess Cruises Capital City Classic at JDHS.
That wasn’t going to fly with the Crimson Bears though, who recovered from a seven-point third quarter deficit to knock off the Moose 49-41 and win the tournament.
Juneau’s Erik Kelly took turns with Palmer’s Clayton Southwick making their respective cases for tournament MVP. Kelly did it with making nice post move after nice post move to finish with 23 points. Southwick did it by driving to the basket relentlessly and using his soft touch in the lane to produce 19 points.
But in the end, it was Kelly who delivered the MVP award while also lifting his team to the tournament championship.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Erik Kelly is one of, if not the best, players in the state,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said after the game. “The way he calms us down and controls our offense and our defense all while scoring is just something to behold.”
JDHS trailed the entire third quarter to Palmer. But with three and a half minutes remaining in the game, Kelly tied the game at 41-41 on a steal and double-pump layup over his defender.
Palmer committed key turnovers in the ensuing possessions as Kasey Watts and Kolby Hoover converted on clutch free throws to put JDHS up three with three minutes left in the game.
Palmer’s Joe Rankin’s 3-pointer from the left wing with two minutes left in the game would have tied it up, but the shot missed the mark.
After four consecutive missed free throws in the final minute by Hoover — who was 8 of 9 from the free-throw line prior — Luke Mallinger scored four points in the closing seconds to secure the championship.
The Crimson Bears outscored the Moose 17-4 in the fourth quarter.
“They shot a lot of 3’s and our whole goal was to attack the basket offensively,” Casperson said. “We got to the rim and we got layups and we got some opportunities to go to the line. We hit some (free throws) in the fourth quarter to provide a little cushion.”
After trailing by single digits in the first and beginning of the second quarter, Palmer took its first lead of the game with just under two minutes remaining in the half. Jacob Titus’ 3-pointer was just the second of three triples the Moose would convert in the game after making 15 and 12 in the prior two games of the tournament.
Titus’ silky jumper, which helped win him the 3-point shooting contest on Friday, was hidden for most of the game thanks to a stingy Crimson Bears’ defense.
CCC Boys All-Tournament Team
CJ Taacad, Sitka
Isaac Mayer, Friday Harbor
Jacob Titus, Palmer
Jared Hawkins, Palmer
Kasey Watts, JDHS
Luke Mallinger, JDHS
Kolby Hoover, JDHS
Clayton Southwick, Palmer
MVP: Erk Kelly, JDHS
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.