SITKA -- It took a while for the Metlakatla High School boys basketball team to get going Wednesday.
But once the Chiefs got rolling, they proved to be too much for the Petersburg Vikings to handle as they claimed a 79-63 victory in the first round of the Region V-Class 3A tournament at Mount Edgecumbe High School's B.J. McGillis Gym.
The Chiefs fell behind 5-0 early in the game, and only led 11-10 at the end of the first quarter. But Metlakatla's Chris Bryant came off the bench to make a couple of key blocks and suddenly the Chiefs' engine stopped sputtering and kicked into full gear. Bryant's blocks ignited a run that gave Metlakatla a 22-12 lead midway through the second quarter and the Chiefs made it 34-20 by halftime.
Metlakatla maintained the pace through the second half, keeping a lead in the range of 11 to 18 points the rest of the game.
The Chiefs now have to face Craig in today's 1:45 p.m. semifinal, with the Panthers posting the region's top overall record at 16-6. Petersburg will face Haines in Friday's 10:15 a.m. fifth-sixth place game. Haines lost 91-48 to two-time defending region champion Wrangell in Wednesday's other first-round game. Wrangell will play tournament host Mount Edgecumbe in today's 9 p.m. semifinal.
In a way, Metlakatla's slow start Wednesday was a microcosm of its season. Metlakatla was one of the preseason picks to win the region title, but the Chiefs struggled early and only in recent weeks have the Chiefs (12-11 overall) been able to bring their overall record to .500. Metlakatla did the same thing last year, but rallied to earn a berth to the Class 3A state tournament by taking second place in the region tourney.
"We always start slow," Metlakatla forward Chevy Hayward said. "Before our games we tell each other we need to do all the little things, but we kind of sleepwalked through it in the first part of the season and it's only recently we've been doing all the little things."
Bryant, who had at least five blocks despite being a guard, wasn't just a defensive force. He also ended up leading Metlakatla with 22 points. Hayward added 21 points and a dozen rebounds, while Apollo Marsden scored all but four of his 17 points in the second half.
Danny Montgomery, a sophomore guard, scored 24 points to lead Petersburg with 15 of those points coming in the fourth quarter as he single-handedly tried to rally the Vikings back into the game with a flurry of 3-pointers and lay-ups off steals. Martin Odegaard added 14 points, while Eric Corl scored 13 points.
Wolves 91, Glacier Bears 48
Using a relentless defense, the Wrangell boys jumped out to a 25-7 first-quarter lead as they cruised to a victory over winless Haines.
Wrangell (14-6 overall) led 49-29 at halftime, then went on a 26-5 run in the third quarter to make it 71-34 even though the Wolves were deep into their bench by that point. The Glacier Bears fell to 0-20 on the season.
Cole Appleman scored 24 points to lead the Wolves, who have won two straight region titles and qualified for four straight state tournaments. Brad Angerman chipped in 17 points and Tony Marriott had 15, but Wrangell's main trio was happier to see the scoring of some of the team's other players.
That lack of scoring depth hurt Wrangell earlier this season when the Wolves lost a 60-54 decision to defending state champion Grace Christian. In that game Appleman, Angerman and Marriott each scored 18 points, but no other Wrangell players scored. Just a couple of points would have been enough for a victory.
"I think we'll make it to state," Marriott said. "We're using our teammates more and that's gets everybody involved in the offense."
Wes Hoffman scored 19 points to lead Haines, while Matt Blood added nine for the Glacier Bears.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.