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SITKA -- The Sitka High School boys basketball team may not have won the battle under the boards.
But the Wolves were able to claim the victory that counted as they beat the Ketchikan Kings 70-57 Thursday in the first round of the Region V-Class 4A tournament at Mount Edgecumbe High School's B.J. McGillis Gym.
With the victory, the Wolves advanced into tonight's title game against the eight-time defending champion Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears. Juneau won the regular-season title, but the Crimson Bears are still smarting from a 70-49 loss to Sitka two weekends ago that was Juneau's only region loss of the regular season.
Sitka, which finished second in the region during the regular season, struggled against Ketchikan's bigger size. But the Wolves (14-8 overall) were able to counter Ketchikan's height and bulk with speed and outside shooting as they grabbed an early lead, then held on for dear life as Ketchikan (7-16) stayed within a handful of points until the very end of the game.
"They're tougher on the boards. They have a lot more size," Sitka forward Brett Haavig said. "We just have to be patient on offense. We always play like we're behind."
Sitka jumped out to an 8-2 lead early in the first quarter, but Ketchikan settled down and closed the advantage to 16-15 at the end of the period. The Wolves extended their lead to 37-31 at halftime, but the Kings came out strong to open the third quarter and chopped it down to one, 37-36, early in the period before Sitka started to pull away. Sitka made it 53-45 entering the fourth quarter, then made the usual parade to the free-throw line as Ketchikan tried to foul to get back into the game.
The Wolves were led by Jason Mooney, who scored 19 points. Brian Friske added 16 points for Sitka, while Mike Schneeberger had 13 points and Colin Kambak scored 11 points despite missing most of the second half with an injury to his left ankle.
"We've got good depth, and that allows other guys to step up when one guy goes down like that," Schneeberger said.
"I think it's playable," Kambak said of his ankle injury. "But we won't determine if I'll play until tomorrow. I was happy with the way everyone played."
Brandon Nicholas and Jesse Richardson, Ketchikan's two 6-foot-5 post players, scored 16 points each to lead the Kings. Kenny Terpsma added 11 for Ketchikan.
Sitka closed out its season last weekend with an 85-70 loss to top-ranked and undefeated Kodiak, and the Wolves felt the game was valuable experience even if they did lose.
"We got a lot more confidence," Haavig said. "We were down 20 in the first half, and cut it down to three."
"That will help us if we get to state," Schneeberger said.
But first, Sitka has to get past Juneau (15-7) if the Wolves want to go to state.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WOLVES 70, KINGS 57
Thursday's boys boxscore from Mount Edgecumbe High School
KETCHIKAN (57) -- Kenny Terpsma 5 0-0 12, T.J. Milner 0 0-0 0, Brandon Nicholas 8 0-0 16, Matt Valentic 0 0-0 0, Jesse Richardson 7 2-3 16, Braden Sharp 1 0-0 2, Russell Miller 3 0-0 7, Brian Updike 0 0-0 0, William Montgomery 0 0-0 0, Calin Bjur 2 0-0 4, Josh Robinson 0 0-0 0, Shaun Phillips 0 0-0 0. Totals: 27 2-3 57.
SITKA (70) -- Mike Schneeberger 5 2-4 13, Greg Blankenship 3 0-0 6, Brett Haavig 0 2-2 2, Jason Mooney 6 6-7 19, Brian Friske 7 2-5 16, Colin Kambak 4 1-2 11, Tristan Hanson 0 0-0 0, Karel Uddipa 1 0-0 3, Karl Stedman 0 0-0 0, Cody Campbell 0 0-0 0, Elgin Hollins 0 0-0 0, Dalton Bergman 0 0-0 0. Totals: 26 12-20 70.
KETCHIKAN 15 16 14 12 -- 57
SITKA 16 21 16 17 -- 70
3-point goals -- Ketchikan 3 (Terpsma 2, Miller 1), Sitka 5 (Kambak 2, Schneeberger 1, Friske 1, Uddipa 1). Fouled out -- Ketchikan 1 (Richardson), Sitka 0. Technical fouls -- None. Total fouls -- Ketchikan 17, Sitka 8.