SITKA - Heading into the most important game of their season, Klawock girls basketball players were shaken up when they learned their star center couldn't play.
But the Chieftains persevered through the loss of a consistent double-double scoring and rebounding presence, hanging on for a 33-32 win over Angoon on Thursday in the first round of Southeast Conference-Class 2A Tournament at Mount Edgecumbe High School in Sitka.
Klawock senior center Kaleigh Ryno could not play Thursday because of eligibility issues; she may return later in the tournament. The Chieftains had one week - and due to travel, one practice - to figure out how to work around her absence.
"The girls were nervous," Klawock coach Don Busse said. "We had to make some adjustments that we knew would be difficult, but I was pleased ... especially with Yadira (Ramirez, who in her first start) had some great rebounds and did a fabulous job of hustling."
Klawock will face Yakutat in a semifinal game at 6:45 p.m. tonight, while top-ranked Skagway faces Hoonah in the other semifinal at 3 p.m. The winners of those two games will advance to Saturday's region final - and secure the two state berths alloted to Southeast teams.
Angoon led 11-6 after the first quarter on Thursday, but Klawock rallied to snare a 17-14 lead at halftime.
Klawock built a 10-point lead - 26-16 - entering the fourth quarter before Angoon charged back. The Eagles' Nicole Isturis grabbed an offensive rebound and fed it to Sunnie Duncan for a basket with five minutes left, cutting the Chieftains' lead to 28-26.
Klawock's Marcie Grant hit a key 3-pointer with 4:41 to play, then added a bucket with 2:30 left to put her team up 33-28.
The Chieftains would need every point of that lead. Angoon's Jessica Williams hit a 2-point shot with 22 seconds left, and Duncan added a basket with 11 seconds to play to make it a one-point Klawock lead, 33-32. In a scramble for the ball, Angoon regained possession with two seconds to play. The inbounds pass made it to Duncan, whose shot from the top of the key bounced off the rim at the final buzzer.
"They worked hard to the end, looking for steals," Angoon coach Ben Johnson said. "The shot just didn't fall for us tonight."
Sharon Webb and Grant scored 11 points apiece to lead Klawock (8-7 overall). Webb, a senior, said she has played with Ryno since elementary school.
"She's a really big part of our team," Webb said. "It's hard for me to play without her, but all the (other) girls played awesome, and stepped it up."
Duncan scored a game-high 14 points for Angoon (5-14 overall). While Klawock had to deal with the loss of Ryno, Angoon has faced challenges all season.
One month into the season the team was without a leader as the former coach opted to step down. Once Johnson took over, the team worked hard to regroup.
"It's a tremendous accomplishment for them to be here, representing Angoon," Johnson said. "From where they were to where they are now is a complete 180."
Braves 47, Thunderbirds 29
Jessica Skaflestad scored 14 points and Jessica Skaflestad added 10 as the Hoonah girls cruised to victory Thursday in the opening game of the Southeast-Class 2A basketball tournament.
Hoonah (17-6 overall) took leads of 27-15 at halftime and 39-19 after three quarters as it advanced to play top-ranked Skagway in today's semifinals. Cassandra Peters added eight points for the Braves, while Amber Lampe hit a pair of 3-pointers.
RaeAnne Mills scored seven points and Lynette Aceveda added six points for Kake (6-10 overall), which has a bye in today's consolation round.
Eagles 47, Warriors 23
Jacquoi James scored 14 points as the Yakutat girls broke out of early-game doldrums to post a 47-23 win over Hydaburg on Thursday at the Southeast-Class 2A tournament.
Yakutat (15-5 overall) led 8-2 after the first quarter, but started to get rolling after halftime. The Eagles led 32-14 after three quarters. Heidi Esbenshade added nine points and Magen James chipped in eight for Yakutat, which will face Klawock in today's semifinals.
Stasha Guthrie scored 13 points, including three 3-pointers, for Hydaburg (2-14 overall). The Warriors face Angoon in today's consolation round.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.