Perhaps the Thunder Mountain girls’ basketball team should play morning games more often.
After the team had just captured the program’s first-ever home victory about 12 hours earlier, the Falcons came out and took care of business once again, defeating struggling Eagle River 53-27 Saturday at Thunder Mountain High School.
The Wolves scored the opening bucket of the game, but that would be their only lead as three Falcons scored in double figures on the way to the team’s second consecutive win, a 26-point blowout.
“This feels great. It feels good to be able to help change history for this school, and it’s really cool to be able to do it my freshman year,” Falcons forward Makayla Pierce said. “It’s great being a part of this team.”
Nine of the 10 players on the roster scored in the game, led by sharp-shooting forward Jonelle Staveland’s 16 points. The sophomore scored six of the team’s nine first-quarter points to set the tone for the rest of the contest.
“It was definitely a good weekend. We learned a lot about our team,” Falcons coach Tanya Nizich said. “These games were needed for us. We were able to run plays and execute them correctly, and we just worked on the little things.”
Nizich also applauded the effort from her forwards over the weekend.
“I have to give it up to Kinsey (Marshall), Makayla Pierce and Kylie (Ibias) for doing the little things as far as blocking out and rebounding. That’s huge for every team,” she said.
Sophomore Katie Tarver, who wore a mask to protect her recently broken nose, and junior Melissa Fisher were the second- and third-leading scorers with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Pierce, who contributed seven points of her own, said she can feel this team improving each week.
“We’re definitely building confidence. I think we go into the game with a different emotion now,” she said. “We’re more excited and more ready to play the game and just have fun this year.”
But Nizich and her team know this season’s true test looms ahead in the form of Southeast Conference play and the defending conference and 4A state champion Crimson Bears.
“It’s always in the back of our minds that we’ll be facing (Juneau-Douglas) and Ketchikan pretty soon,” Nizich said. “They’re definitely teams we’ve seen take control of games last year, and we’re hoping to learn from that.”
The Falcons, while focused on what lies ahead, are still taking the time to enjoy their most recent victories, their fourth and fifth of the season.
“The feeling you get after a win, I mean, it just makes you already ready for the next game, whether it’s a day from now or two weeks from now — or a morning game,” Nizich joked about the 10:30 a.m. start time. “It just makes you that much more hungry to get after it in the next game.”
The Wolves were led in scoring by freshman Samantha Coy’s nine points.
Thunder Mountain (5-5) is at JDHS at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
Falcons grab first home win
The Thunder Mountain girls’ basketball team had already won three games this season after going winless in last year’s inaugural campaign, but it hadn’t been able to capture that elusive first-ever home victory at Thunder Mountain High School.
That is, until Friday.
The Falcons rushed out to a 10-0 lead over the Wolves in the first half of the opening quarter, and the defense held Eagle River to 26 points on the night as the Thunder Mountain crowd celebrated on the court with the team after a 44-26 romp Friday night in Juneau.
While the team was no doubt excited for the victory, Falcons coach Tanya Nizich said the focus of the post-game conversation was identifying the areas in which Thunder Mountain can improve.
“I’m happy with the win, but I’m not happy with the intensity that we came out with,” she said. “It’s a home game. Everybody should be lit up and things should be rolling.”
Still, Nizich said she is ecstatic for her team’s victory. After not being able to pick up that first win last season, she said the exciting atmosphere in the gym this year is a welcome feeling.
“It’s awesome to see the kids in the student section just be rowdy and have fun with it,” she said. “It’s just a whole new environment, especially for us.”
And Thunder Mountain got the crowd going early. Sophomore point guard Eyerus Tingley drained a jumper from the wing to open the scoring, and five different Falcons scored in the first quarter as they opened up a 15-5 lead after the first quarter.
The Wolves responded in the second quarter with an 11-5 run to cut the deficit to six points, 22-16, but that would be as close as Eagle River would get the rest of the way. Thunder Mountain’s defense allowed just 10 second-half points, and a balanced Falcons offense triggered a 13-4 fourth-quarter run that put the game away for good.
Nizich said this is the result she expected from her squad.
“We should be able to see what we have and execute plays in games like these. It’s being able to focus on the little things that we’re going to have to perfect down the road,” she said. “From the first day of practice we’ve been talking about playing (Juneau-Douglas), and that’s just mentally preparing them for that kind of serious competition.
“As we know, they plan to be the best again. It’s great to get a chance to play them,” she continued. “But when we have opportunities like we did (Friday), we need to take advantage and execute what we know how to do.”
Tingley’s eight points led her team in scoring, but six Falcons scored at least five points as the home team spread the ball around well, consistently finding the open player. Junior guard Melissa Fisher was the second-leading scorer with seven points, while sophomore Jonelle Staveland and freshman Michaela Demmert pitched in six points apiece.
Senior Danielle Trubiano and sophomore Dana Panfil led the Wolves in scoring with nine and six points, respectively.
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