The Sitka boys’ basketball team had already seen its female counterpart earn a trip to state on the 3A girls’ side of the Region V 3A/4A Basketball Tournament, but it was the boys’ turn this time.
The Wolves held off a scrappy Wrangell after coming back from a four-point halftime deficit to win 70-59 and earn a trip to the state tournament. Trailing 27-23 at the break, Sitka blew the doors open with 24 and 23 points in the third and fourth quarters, respectively, and Wrangell had no answer.
Sitka coach Andy Lee said it was a great job on his team’s part bouncing back from a difficult loss to Mt. Edgecumbe in the boys’ 3A bracket championship game the night before.
“It was an emotional loss last night. Obviously with the rivalry with Mt. Edgecumbe, they’re a great team and we put a lot of physical and emotional energy into that game,” he said. “I think it took its toll on the kids, but they did a good job bouncing back (Saturday).”
Sitka’s Michael Matz scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half, including three 3-pointers, and the combination of Bae Widmier and Mik Potrzuski inside was too tough for Wrangell down the stretch.
“They just stayed with it and were focused and I thought our seniors stepped up. Michael Matz, Luke (Clayton) — I think they played with a sense of urgency in the second half,” Lee said. “We executed and we didn’t break down, and I thought it was our most disciplined game of the year. The work we put in in June and July is really paying off.”
The Wolves from Sitka were getting into the paint at will in the second half, scoring on layup after layup, but Wrangell had a high-scoring half of its own. The Wolves from Wrangell scored 32 points in the half behind a strong effort from Alex Buness. Wrangell’s junior swingman scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and accounted for nearly half of his team’s points after halftime. Only four Wrangell players scored in the second half in an effort to come back after letting a first-half lead get away.
Sitka got going early in the third quarter with a 5-0 run that forced Wrangell to take a timeout, but the Wolves’ run wouldn’t stop there. After the Wolves from Wrangell briefly retook the lead at 29-28, Sitka stormed out on a 13-3 run that left Wrangell facing a double-digit deficit. Sitka let Wrangell get back within four points early in the fourth quarter, but that would be as close as they would get.
Eric James led the way for Wrangell with 22 points, Alex Buness scored 16 and Patrick Howell pitched in 11 points of his own.
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