SITKA -- Things were silent in the locker room of the Wrangell High School boys basketball team as the Wolves spent the halftime intermission quietly reflecting on their lackadaisical performance in the first half of their game against the Mount Edgecumbe Braves.
Wrangell, the two-time defending Region V-Class 3A champions, was trailing by two points at the break and the Wolves felt they should be playing much better than they did in the first half.
Those quiet few moments of meditation helped the Wolves, who rallied late in the third quarter and held on to claim a 69-57 victory in Thursday's semifinals of the region tournament at Mount Edgecumbe High School's B.J. McGillis Gym.
"It was silent, really silent," Wrangell's Brad Angerman said of team's mood in the locker room. "We came out kind of slow, and I think we were kind of taking them for granted."
"We were playing poor defense and we weren't working hard enough," teammate Randy Churchill added.
Wrangell (15-6 overall) earned its fifth straight trip to the Class 3A state tournament (March 22-24 in Anchorage) with Thursday's victory. The Wolves also earned a chance to defend their region championship in today's 5:15 p.m. title game, when they will play the Craig Panthers (17-6) who beat Metlakatla 82-73 in Thursday's other semifinal game. Mount Edgecumbe (9-12) will play Metlakatla (12-12) at 1:45 p.m. today in the third-fourth place game, while Petersburg (7-12) and Haines (0-20) played at 10:15 a.m. today in the fifth-sixth place game.
Mount Edgecumbe jumped out to an early 9-4 lead, but Wrangell was able to take a 12-11 advantage at the end of the first quarter. The two teams had several lead changes in the second quarter, with Mount Edgecumbe taking a 29-27 lead on a 3-pointer by Frank Nicolai at the halftime buzzer.
The two teams continued to swap leads early in the third quarter and it was tied 38-38 midway through the period. But that's when Wrangell went on a 13-0 run to take command of the game. Tony Mariott started the run with a rebound and put-back for his eighth and ninth points of the quarter, then Cole Appleman made six straight points. Angerman closed out the run with the final five points, then added another bucket as time expired in the third quarter, right after Mount Edgecumbe's Eric Alstrom hit a 3-pointer to end Wrangell's run. The run was all Wrangell needed, as the Wolves maintained a low-double-digit lead throughout the rest of the game.
Angerman scored 28 points to lead the Wolves, while Appleman added 19 points and Marriott scored 11.
Alstrom led Mount Edgecumbe with 19 points, while Randy Gloko added 12 points, Chris Boskofsky scored 11 and Nicolai chipped in 10 for the Braves.
Now that they're past Mount Edgecumbe, the Wolves can look forward to playing Craig, which had the region's top overall record this season.
"They beat us three out of four times," Marriott said.
Panthers 82, Chiefs 73
The Metlakatla boys made it interesting at the end, but Craig held on for a victory in the Class 3A semifinals.
Craig led by 19 points, 63-44, entering the fourth quarter. But the Chiefs closed the margin to five, 78-73, with 36 seconds to go. Craig Carter hit a pair of free throws with 17 seconds left and then scored a layup (with the help of a goaltending call on Metlakatla's Chris Boyd) with seven seconds left to clinch the victory.
"They came back strong," said Carter, who also missed a pair of free throws with 36 seconds left. "I was just trying to make it a close game. We had a couple of dumb errors."
"We knew it would be tough at the end," said Craig's Raymond Douville, who scored 40 points to lead the Panthers. "We knew they'd come back and make a run at us."
Douville said the pair of games the two teams played a week earlier in Metlakatla were a big help for Thursday's game. Metlakatla won the first game, and Craig took the second, with both games being won by more than 20 points.
Craig only moved up to the Class 3A level six years ago, with a year spent at Class 2A before that as the Panthers climbed the ladder from Class 1A. Carter said this was the first time Craig has earned a berth in the Class 3A state tournament, and it was also the first time the Panthers even earned a first-round bye at regions for being one of the top seeds. He and Douville both said they weren't sure how to deal with the bye on Wednesday.
Apollo Marsden scored 23 points to lead Metlakatla, while Amos Hudson had 19 points, Chevy Hayward scored 14 and Chris Bryant added 11.