After two of the most emotionally draining games a team can play against a brand-new crosstown rival, the Thunder Mountain boys' basketball team doesn't have much time to regroup for this weekend's Southeast Conference battles at Ketchikan.
But regroup they must, or they'll find themselves stuck at the bottom of the conference standings for the remainder of the season.
Earning at least a split would help the Falcons (7-7, 1-3) out tremendously with two games left against Juneau-Douglas (10-7, 2-2) on Feb. 25 and 27.
Standing in the way is one of the state's top teams, the Ketchikan Kings (13-5, 3-1). But they've done it before. The Falcons beat Ketchikan on Jan. 8 in the first-ever meeting between the two schools before dropping the second game the next night.
"We have four days to prepare for Ketchikan, who is first in the conference, and trying to heal up physically and emotionally from Friday and Saturday before playing another very tough opponent is a tough week," TMHS coach John Blasco said. "Having gotten one (win) under our belt, we know that it can be done. We have a level of confidence, but we're preparing to go into their place knowing it's going to be very tough. Hopefully, these last two games have helped prepare us for what will be a hostile environment."
Blasco said the guys have put the losses to JDHS behind them.
"They're quite upbeat," he said. "The guys realize that Saturday, even though we lost, we played a very good game all around. We just got beaten by a team that played better than us that night. They are smart enough to realize that, so they're not hanging their heads by any means."
The Crimson Bears won Friday's game 60-45 before taking Game 2 73-63. The second quarter was unkind to the Falcons both times out. TMHS gave up 20 and 28 points, respectively, in Friday's and Saturday's second quarters.
"That's been a tough quarter for us all year," Blasco said. "I've got to figure out if it's my rotations or what, but we need to make sure that quarter doesn't happen like that anymore. Clearly, we can hang with them, but it's a matter of putting together a complete, consistent game."
Senior Jeff Whicker leads the way for the Kings with an average of nearly 25 points per game. Tyller Bell is second with 11.8 points a game, and Chas Allen third with 7.4. Kyle Day also is chipping in 5.4 points. Bell is grabbing 7.4 rebounds and dishing 3.4 assists.
"They're going to run their same offense with their same main guys, but what I've been reading and seeing on them is that their other guys are stepping up," Blasco said. "Their scoring averages are going up. Day and Allen and those guys are scoring more in the 10-12 range than they were earlier in the season when they were in the 6-8 range."
Blasco said controlling the tempo and not letting the Kings go on their killer runs is key.
"If you notice their games up North, their big thing is they make a very strong second-half push," he said. "They did that to us the second night. They can put up 20-25 points in a very short time. We have to be ready for their second-half push and stop their big runs quickly, or counter it."
The Kings haven't played since Jan. 30, which was a 103-96 victory over Prince Rupert (British Columbia).
Blasco said there is still a long way to go before the conference tournament, which is March 4-6 at Mt. Edgecumbe.
"Looking at the Southeast tournament, we'd love to win the conference to have the bye that first night," he said. "To do that, we basically need to win out and see what Ketchikan and Juneau do against each other. The biggest thing that matters is these games are big for team morale in terms of confidence, but they aren't the end of the season. The idea is to go down, get some wins and improve on our play, as we did Saturday night here (at TMHS)."
The Thunder Mountain (0-15, 0-4) girls are hosting Ketchikan (16-3, 3-1) Friday and Saturday, with both varsity games at 8 p.m.
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