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It was only fitting that the first elimination game was the best of the week thus far on the 4A girls’ side of the 2011 Region V 3A/4A Basketball Tournament.
And it needed overtime to decide a winner.
Ketchikan freshman Jayley Taylor made a free throw with a few seconds left to make it a two-possession game, and the Kings forced a Thunder Mountain turnover on the ensuing play for a 46-42 win Thursday at Juneau-Douglas High School.
“We wanted at least another day together,” Kings coach Kelly Smith said. “To have to prepare for basketball, and warm up and do all that stuff. We talked about that before the game and during half. So that was exciting.”
Eleven of Taylor’s 18 points came at the line, where she made 11 of 13 for the game. Her efficiency from the stripe was crucial as neither team led by more than five points, and that was early in the first quarter when the Falcons went up 7-2 on a free throw from sophomore Katie Tarver.
As for the slow start for Ketchikan, Smith said it’s difficult to respond after playing a physically imposing team like JDHS the night before.
“We were really dead. We battled last night, we gave all we could to Juneau,” he said. “We were tired today, but I thought they responded really well.”
The Falcons had their chances down the stretch of a game — which had nine lead changes — coach Tanya Nizich called one of her team’s most complete performances of the season. Sophomore Jonelle Staveland and freshman Michaela Demmert were huge for Thunder Mountain in the final minutes of regulation, combining for the final eight points to force overtime.
But the Falcons were outscored 7-3 in the extra period as the Kings moved on for another shot at the No. 1 Crimson Bears at 6:45 p.m. today at JDHS. Taylor and teammate Erin Doherty led the way for Ketchikan, with Doherty pitching in 12 points. Doherty and Taylor also scored all of the Kings’ overtime points.
Tarver said despite the loss, she thought it was her team’s most gritty effort of the season.
“All the girls stepped out there at the beginning of the game with probably more heart than we did all season. We really wanted this,” she said. “But this was good because it will help us push forward to next season and it showed us what we can really do.
“As we practice more together and get used to each other more I think next season will be really good.”
Staveland led Thunder Mountain with 13 points while Tarver and Demmert contributed nine points apiece. But Thunder Mountain didn’t do itself any favors at the free throw line, finishing 11-for-24 as a team.
“It was a well-fought game by both teams all the way to the end,” Falcons coach Tanya Nizich said. “It was definitely a different story for us this year, and I think these girls made it known next year’s not going to be a walk in the park for Ketchikan and, hopefully, (Juneau-Douglas) losing all those seniors.”
Just like their male counterparts at Thunder Mountain, this team is very young. Nizich said she’s already looking forward to next season.
“I see a tremendous difference in one year,” she said. “One year of building strength, ability — they already want the keys to the weight room. That’s music to a coach’s ears.”
Each team’s offense picked up after the slow start to the game. Ketchikan put 14 points on the board in the second quarter after posting only two in the first, while the Falcons nearly doubled their first-half output in the third quarter alone with 12 points. The Falcons picked up the pace again in the fourth, scoring 14 points in the period before posting only three points in overtime.