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SITKA -- After nearly blowing an 18-point lead in the semifinals, the Mount Edgecumbe High School girls basketball team made sure there was no letdown the next night as the Braves grabbed another big lead.
Mount Edgecumbe jumped on top early and cruised to a 45-17 victory over the Haines Glacier Bears in Friday's Region V-Class 3A championship game at Mount Edgecumbe's B.J. McGillis Gym. The victory gave the Braves their third straight region title.
"I think we got over our first game jitters," Mount Edgecumbe senior guard-forward Adrienne Taalak said, referring to Thursday night's 49-43 victory over Petersburg that saw the Braves jump out to a 24-6 lead late in the first quarter only to have the Vikings whittle the margin down to one point in the game's final minute. "We came out strong today."
"Everything fell together for us," Mount Edgecumbe senior guard Melanie Beans said. "They're a good team."
Both Mount Edgecumbe and Haines will travel to Anchorage for the Class 3A state tournament March 22-24 at Sullivan Arena. This will be the fifth straight trip to state for Mount Edgecumbe and the first for Haines since 1984. In Friday's consolation games, Petersburg beat Metlakatla 60-40 in the third-fourth place game and Craig beat Wrangell 62-44 in the fifth-sixth place contest.
Haines took a 2-0 lead to open the championship game, but Mount Edgecumbe led the rest of the way as the Braves took a 10-4 lead at the end of the first quarter and 22-10 at halftime. The Braves kept rolling in the second half as they led 33-14 at the end of the third quarter.
"They were quoted in the paper a couple of days ago as saying they wanted a shot at us. Well, they got it," Mount Edgecumbe junior guard Prema Warren said.
"I was hoping we could match up better with them," Haines coach Roger Vlasak said. "The last game we played them we only lost by five. It wasn't our night. We came out and we were cold shooting. The girls had a poor game offensively, and I attribute that to the pressure of Mount Edgecumbe's press. The girls, they're embarrassed about how they played and it will be hard to bring them back."
Mount Edgecumbe (21-3 overall) gave up as many as eight inches in some of its player matchups with Haines (8-15), but the Braves countered with speed and tenacious defense.
"We always tell ourselves we have play with heart over height," said Beans, who is one of the five players on the Mount Edgecumbe roster who stand 5-foot-3 or shorter. Only one player stands taller than 5-9, and she was just promoted from the junior varsity.
"It's all the same to us," the 5-1 Warren said of the height difference.
While Mount Edgecumbe may be on the short side, the Braves have usually found a way to negate their opponent's height advantage underneath the boards. They shoot a lot of 3-pointers, which means the rebounds kick out further. And the Brave forwards work harder at boxing out underneath the basket.
"It's tough, but it comes down to who wants it more," said Pauline Tutiakoff, a 5-7 forward.
Mount Edgecumbe's post presence was helped by the return of center Sara Squartsoff from a knee injury suffered two weekends ago against Haines. Squartsoff wasn't cleared to play in the region tournament until Wednesday.
"I sprained my knee pretty bad against Haines," Squartsoff said. "We had everything to lose and everybody wanted to beat us."
Taalak scored 11 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished out four assists and made four steals to lead Mount Edgecumbe. Squartsoff and Bean both scored 10 points, while Tutiakoff grabbed six rebounds and Beans made four steals.
Lisa Sele was held to a team-high seven points one day after she scored 41 points in Haines' 55-51 semifinal victory over Metlakatla. Penny Fossman and Lori Sele both added four points for the Glacier Bears.
Vikings 60, MissChiefs 40
Krystyna McCay scored 21 points as the Petersburg girls clinched third place with a victory Metlakatla.
Amber Beardslee, Karna Williams and Holli O'Neil each scored nine points for the Vikings, who finished the season with a 12-10 record. Petersburg only led 30-27 at halftime and 43-38 at the end of the third quarter, but McCay scored nine points in the fourth quarter as the Vikings pulled away.
Candra DeGuzman and Anna Walker scored 12 points apiece and Sapphire Mills added seven for Metlakatla, which ended up at 10-13 and fourth in the region.
Panthers 62, Wolves 44
Heather Douville scored 20 of her game-high 29 points in the second half as the Craig girls came from behind to beat Wrangell in the fifth-sixth place game.
The Panthers trailed 24-22 at halftime, but Douville scored 13 points in the third quarter as Craig jumped out to 45-31 lead entering the fourth quarter. Meggie Haydu added 16 points for the Panthers, who finished the season with an 8-12 record.
Alesha Cooper scored 15 points for Wrangell, while Kaelene Wilson added 11 points and Dena Kautz added nine. The Wolves finished the season with a 3-17 record.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.