The Craig Panthers won their first-ever Region V-Class 3A championship Friday with a 68-64 win over the Metlakatla Chiefs at the Juneau-Douglas High School gymnasium.
"There's really nothing like the first time," Craig head coach James Carle said. "I'm just happy for the kids and for the sportsmanship they show on the court and off."
Both teams were riding high after upsetting the top seeds in Thursday's semifinals. Metlakatla stunned the state's second-ranked Wrangell Wolves 70-52 and Craig got a mild upset over the Mount Edgecumbe Braves 83-63.
The Panthers were able to overcome a tournament-high 39-point scoring effort by Metlakatla's Chris Bryant to win the title. Byrant, who broke his nose in the Chiefs opening game against Petersburg, was simply shooting out of his mind.
"Chris Bryant was on fire," Craig's Jordan Savage said. "He just couldn't miss."
Raymond Douville was the spark plug for the Panthers in the front court and lit up Metlakatla for his team-high 22 points and was all over the court defensively, creating turnovers and forcing Metlakatla mistakes. Teammates Fred Hamilton and Ryan Savage did the same to the Chiefs under the basket, combining for 32 points. Jordan Savage scored 12 points for Craig.
"Freddy (Hamilton) and Raymond Douville had great games," Carle said. "They play hard day in and day out."
Craig scored first and held a marginal advantage for much of the game, but every time the Panthers tried to pull away, Bryant would answer with one of his eight 3-pointers. Craig led 11-9 after one quarter and went ahead 32-23 with a 7-0 run at the end of the second quarter.
Metlakatla held Craig to just 11 points in the third quarter and pulled to within 41-40 at the end of the period. Bryant traded 3-pointers with Douville to start off the fourth quarter and the Chiefs found themselves in the lead for the first time.
The Chiefs held on until 1:47 to go when John Mackie, Metlakatla's big power forward, fouled out with Craig up 57-56. The rest of the game turned surreal as both teams fought tooth and nail for the title.
Ryan Savage found himself the recipient of a couple long passes that he easily converted for two points, but Bryant and Apollo Marsden would not let Metlakatla's dream die as they hit clutch treys in the final minute.
Craig finally clinched the win on a pair of free throws by Ryan Hamilton, his only points of the game, to give them a 68-64 lead with nine seconds remaining. Bryant tried desperately to push the ball down the court for one last shot, but lost control and Craig recovered to run out the clock.
"Our defense has brought us a long way since I took over here two years ago," Carle said. "I preach defense is the thing that wins titles and it did today."
"Its great," Raymond Douville said. "Last year we came into the championship game and lost. This year we came in and won and it fells real good. I think it was our defense and our hustle that made the difference."
After Bryant's amazing 39 points, Metlakatla was led by Marsden with 11 points and John Mackie scored seven.
"They (Craig) played real well," Metlakatla head coach Joshua Meuhlenkamp said. "They played better than our kids. They got two in Craig and we got two in Metlakatla and they got us here. Maybe the ball will bounce our way in Anchorage."
Craig and Metlakatla both qualify for the state basketball tournament at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage beginning on Thursday.
Wrangell 103, Mount Edgecumbe 58
The Wrangell Wolves defeated the Mount Edgecumbe Braves 103-58 on Friday to claim third place in the Region V-Class 3A tournament.
The Wolves, who were upset by Metlakatla on Thursday and knocked out of the state tournament, woke up in the second half and 31 points in the third quarter and 27 in the fourth.
Brad Angerman led Wrangell's charge with 37 points while teammate Brent Stokes scored 23 and Tony Marriott had 18.
Mount Edgecumbe was led by J.J. Paukan with 14 points and Chris Boskofsky had 13 points.
Petersburg 64, Haines 46
The Petersburg Vikings beat the Haines Glacier Bears 64-46 for fifth place in the Region V-Class 3A tournament on Friday.
Petersburg led 49-40 at the end of the third quarter and held Haines to just six points in the fourth quarter.
Joey Boggs led the Vikings with 21 points while Aaron Severon had 14 and Kyle Skinner contributed 10 points.
Haines was led by Tyrell Horton with 11 points and Tim Kaloostian had 10 points.
Jeff Kasper can be reached at email@example.com