When the Mount Edgecumbe boys let an early lead slip away in Thursday's region basketball semifinal against Wrangell, the Braves turned to a disparate duo to secure the win.
Diminutive junior guard Earl Alstrom scored 20 points and towering freshman post Damen Bell-Holter was a force in the paint late as the Braves beat the resilient Wolves 66-55 at the Juneau-Douglas High School main gym.
Bell-Holter is the tallest player on the Mount Edgecumbe roster at 6-foot-5, while Alstrom is the smallest at 5-6.
"The guys did a good job of getting Damen the ball where he can be successful," Braves coach Archie Young said. "For a freshman, he stepped up and made some nice shots for us. ...
"Earl was super - he's our energy guy. He gets the tempo going for us."
With the victory, Mount Edgecumbe (17-2 overall) qualified for a return trip to the state tournament. They'll be joined by Petersburg, which beat Craig 57-50 in Thursday's other semifinal.
"It feels good to be going back to state - it's what we've worked for all year," Braves senior Brandon Thomas said.
Petersburg and Mount Edgecumbe will face off at 5:15 p.m. in the Class 3A boys region championship game.
Mount Edgecumbe took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter Thursday, aided by a pair of 3-pointers from Josh Thomas. Wrangell got on the board when Gordon McCloskey drained a 3-point shot with 4:20 left in the first.
The Wolves (9-10 overall) continued to chip away at their deficit, and Nic Howell hit a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left in the first period to cut Mount Edgecumbe's lead to 17-13 after one period.
"We came out hard, and eased up because we thought we'd already won it," said Bell-Holter, who is from Hydaburg.
"With the success we had against (Wrangell) earlier in the year, and the way we jumped out, we got complacent," Young said. "The kids forgot that it is regions, and everyone plays hard."
Wrangell's Chris Haggard scored five straight points to trim Mount Edgecumbe's lead to just one - 22-21 - midway through the second quarter. The Braves led 28-24 at halftime.
The two teams stayed close - but Mount Edgecumbe stayed just ahead - throughout the third quarter. Wrangell drew within a point on two occasions, and Mount Edgecumbe's lead was three - 37-34 - at the end of the period.
Howell sank a 3-pointer just over a minute into the fourth to tie the game at 37-all. Then Bell-Holter scored a pair of baskets - he scored eight points in the final period - as Mount Edgecumbe took a 41-39 lead. Alstrom sank two free throws - he was a perfect 8-for-8 from the line in the fourth quarter - to put the Braves up 43-39 with five minutes left in the game. The Wolves stayed close into the final 90 seconds, but the Braves kept their edge.
Josh Thomas finished with 21 points, including four 3-pointers, to lead Mount Edgecumbe, while Bell-Holter finished with 12.
Alstrom's 20 points came after he spent six days in the hospital last week with a tooth infection. Last season, he had to sit out with a torn meniscus.
"It feels good to be back with the team and help them out, and hopefully it will continue," Alstrom said. "It's a really good group, the best I've been with in a long time. Hopefully we'll keep on playing as a team."
Howell scored 18 points and Haggard added 16 for Wrangell; each sank three 3-pointers in the game.
"They gave everything they had," Wrangell coach Ray Stokes said of his players. "We dug ourselves a hole early, and it hurt us. ...
"They're gutty kids. We're not extremely talented, but I'd rather have guts than talent."
Wrangell will face Craig in the consolation round at 1:30 p.m. today.
Vikings 57, Panthers 50
Sam Jensen scored 26 points to lead the Petersburg boys back to the state tournament with a 57-50 win over Craig in their region semifinal on Thursday.
The Vikings took a 33-23 lead at halftime, and led 40-35 after three quarters. Jeb Phillips added 11 points for Petersburg, which made the state tournament in 2003 but did not earn a berth last season. The Vikings will face Mount Edgecumbe today for the Class 3A boys region title.
Eric Hamilton scored a game-high 27 points for Craig, which won region and state titles in 2003. Mike Demmert chipped in 13 points for the Panthers.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.
SOUTHEAST-CLASS 3A BOYS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
BRAVES 66, WOLVES 55
Thursday's semifinal boys game from JDHS
WRANGELL (55) - Mike Howell 2 1-2 6, Jake Mork 1 0-0 2, Gordon McCloskey 3 0-2 8, Alex Acuna 0 0-0 0, Chris Haggard 6 1-2 16, Nic Howell 6 3-5 18, Dwight Yancey 2 1-4 5, Spencer Stavee 0 0-0 0, Peter White 0 0-0 0, Kenny Wilson 0 0-0 0, Andrew Versteeg 0 0-0 0, Curty Kautz 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 6-15 55.
MOUNT EDGECUMBE (66) - Josh Thomas 6 5-6 21, Brandon Thomas 0 7-8 7, Tommy Stasenko 3 0-1 6, Erik Stickler 0 0-0 0, Earl Alstrom 6 8-8 20, Damen Bell-Holter 6 0-0 12, Caleb McGraw 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 20-23 66.
WRANGELL 13 11 10 21 - 55
MOUNT EDGECUMBE 17 11 9 29 - 66
3-point goals - Wrangell 9 (Haggard 3, N. Howell 3, McCloskey 2, M. Howell), Mount Edgecumbe 4 (J. Thomas 4). Fouled out - Wrangell 3 (M. Howell, McCloskey, N. Howell), Mount Edgecumbe 0. Technical fouls - None. Total fouls - Wrangell 21, Mount Edgecumbe 13.
VIKINGS 57, PANTHERS 50
Thursday's semifinal boys game from JDHS
CRAIG (50) - Eric Hamilton 11 3-5 27, Nick Jones 1 0-0 2, Phillip Pierce 0 0-0 0, Alexei Gamble 4 0-3 8, Mike Demmert 4 5-7 13, Serafin Lara 0 0-0 0, James Seley 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 8-15 50.
PETERSBURG (57) - Sam Jensen 12 2-2 26, Kalen Williams 0 0-0 0, Blake Buotte 0 3-5 3, Jeb Phillips 5 0-2 11, Aaron Phillips 1 1-2 3, Matt Short 2 2-2 6, Stuart Meeks 2 0-0 4, David Mazzella 0 2-2 2, Trevor McCay 0 0-0 0, Cameron Severson 1 0-0 2. Totals: 23 10-15 57.
CRAIG 7 16 12 15 - 50
PETERSBURG 14 19 7 17 - 57
3-point goals - Craig 2 (Hamilton 2), Petersburg 1 (Phillips). Fouled out - None. Technical fouls - None. Total fouls - Craig 13, Petersburg 14.
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