SITKA - Savannah Ames helped the Skagway girls build a 15-point lead over Yakutat in the first half of Saturday's Southeast Conference-Class 2A Tournament championship game.
Then Ames started hitting again just in time as the Panthers held on for a 40-37 win to claim their second straight region title. The tournament was held in B.J. McGillis Gymnasium - a former aircraft hangar - on the campus of Mount Edgecumbe High School.
Ames, a senior, finished with 25 points, including three 3-pointers in the first half and a pair of key free-throws down the stretch.
"She's clutch," Skagway coach Lara Labesky said. "Every team would love to have a player like that. We can count on her. Anytime things are close, she can bring us right back to where we're supposed to be."
Both teams advance to the state tournament, to be held later this week at Service High School in Anchorage.
Andrew Krueger / Juneau Empire
Driving to another title: Skagway's Tiffanie Potter (34) drives to the basket against Yakutat defenders Sylvia Schumacher (13) and Jacquoi James during the second half of Saturday's Southeast-Class 2A girls final at Mount Edgecumbe High School.
"It's a great way to end my high school career - but it's not ended yet," Ames said of winning the region title and looking ahead to state.
Saturday's game was a rematch of last year's region final, when Ames scored 20 points as Skagway rallied to beat Yakutat 39-34.
This year, Skagway jumped ahead early, and took a commanding 19-4 lead when Ames swished a long 3-pointer - from about six feet beyond the arc - with 5:12 left in the second quarter.
Yakutat managed to chip away at their deficit. With 42 seconds left in the first half, the Eagles' Sylvia Schumacher was fouled by Ames. Schumacher hit one of her two free-throw attempts to make the score 25-15 Skagway at the half.
"We got into early foul trouble," Ames said. "In the beginning, we ran our offense like it was our game. But we came out in the second quarter, and we weren't prepared."
Yakutat closed to within four points - 31-27 - after three quarters, and drew within two - 31-29 - when Magen James made a basket with 7:03 left in the fourth. Jacquoi James converted a three-point play with 5:27 left in the game to cut Skagway's lead to one, 35-34.
Then Ames took control. She hit a jumper with 5:10 to play to increase Skagway's lead to three - 37-34. With 27 seconds left and Skagway up by just two - 38-36 - Ames sank two free throws for a four-point lead.
Yakutat's Rose Porter hit the first of two free throws with 10 seconds left to cut Skagway's lead to three, and Yakutat retained possession when the ball went out of bounds after Porter's missed second attempt. The Eagles got off two final shots - one 3-pointer from the right side, a 2-pointer from the left - that bounced off the rim.
Jacquoi James scored 17 points and Heidi Esbenshade added six for Yakutat.
"The girls showed so much courage to come back - I'm really proud of them," Yakutat coach Joe Klushkan said. "We got a good look at the bucket (for the final shot), and it just didn't go in."
Crystal Ketterman, Candi Ketterman and Audrey Neitzer each added four points for Skagway.
"We pulled it out," Labesky said. "It didn't go exactly as I wanted it to go, but do they ever? ... We lost our composure a little early, but everyone stayed in the game."
Skagway reached Saturday's final with a 50-27 win over Hoonah in Friday's semifinal round, while Yakutat posted a 46-29 semifinal win over Klawock.
Skagway's record improves to 21-1 overall; Yakutat is 16-6 overall.
Tournament awards and additional tournament photos will be printed later this week in the Empire.
Third-fifth place game Braves 40, Chieftains 31
Amber Lampe and Jessica Skaflestad scored 12 points apiece to lead the Hoonah girls to a 40-31 win over Klawock on Saturday and a third-place finish at the region tournament.
Sharon Webb scored 13 points and Kaleigh Ryno added 11 for Klawock (8-9 overall).
Fourth-sixth place game Thunderbirds 40, Eagles 31
Cordelia LaMere scored a game-high 15 points as the Kake girls defeated Angoon 40-31 on Saturday to take fourth place at the region tournament.
Kake trailed 6-5 after the first quarter, but LaMere scored eight points in the second quarter as the Thunderbirds (7-10 overall) went on a 16-4 run. Megan Gregory added nine points and Savannah Jackson scored six for Kake.
Jessica Williams scored 10 points, Samantha Williams added eight and Chenera Kookesh chipped in seven for Angoon (6-15 overall).
FRIDAY'S GAMES Semifinals Panthers 50, Braves 27
Savannah Ames scored 25 points to lead the Skagway girls to a 50-27 victory over Hoonah in the region tournament semifinals, securing the Panthers their second straight state tournament berth.
Skagway led 12-2 after the first quarter and 31-15 at halftime, and continued to build its lead. Ames hit three 3-pointers in the game, and Michelle Harris added nine points for the top-seeded Panthers.
Cassandra Peters and Kristi Skaflestad scored six points apiece to lead Hoonah.
Eagles 46, Chieftains 29
Jacquoi James scored 14 points as the Yakutat girls beat Klawock 46-29 on Saturday, giving the Eagles their second consecutive trip to the state tournament.
Rose Porter and Sylvia Schumacher added eight points apiece for Yakutat, which trailed 8-7 after the first quarter but pulled ahead with a 15-4 run in the second quarter.
Sharon Webb scored a game-high 15 points and Kaleigh Ryno added nine for Klawock.
Consolation bracket Eagles 56, Warriors 43
Samantha Williams scored 20 points to help the Angoon girls rally from a halftime deficit for a 56-43 win over Hydaburg in the region tournament's consolation bracket.
Jessica Williams added 18 for Angoon (6-14 overall), which led 19-5 after the first quarter, but went cold and trailed 24-20 at the half. The Eagles jumped ahead for good with a 15-4 run in the third quarter.
Mary Cline scored 18 points to lead Hydaburg (2-15 overall), which ended its season.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.