ANCHORAGE — With his team trailing by three points in the dying seconds, Jazz King tipped the ball toward the basket.
It never came down.
The Juneau-Douglas boys’ basketball team saw its season topple down in a 52-47 loss to Wasilla in the fourth-place game Saturday at the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska Basketball State Championships in Anchorage.
When Colin Gozelski’s layup bounced off the rim inside the 10-second mark with the Crimson Bears trailing 50-47, King attempted a tip-in.
But with 6.9 seconds to play, the ball got stuck between the rim and the backboard. Wasilla was granted possession, converted two free throws after a foul and walked out of the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Wells Fargo Sports Complex with a victory, avenging two regular season losses to Juneau-Douglas.
“It’s a microcosm of our season,” JDHS coach Steve Potter said. “What random odd bounce could go our way?”
The Warriors ended the game on a 17-7 run to send the Crimson Bears to their fourth sixth-place finish at state in the past five years. The team placed seventh last year.
JDHS had its chances late in the game.
Junior guard Tony Yadao, who finished with a team-high 14 points, pulled the Bears within 1, 47-46, with a step-back jumper at the 1:43 mark. Wasilla’s Connor Devine missed a shot from close range on the ensuing possession, but King was called for an offensive foul on the next exchange.
Each team hit 1 of 2 from the line before Wasilla’s Braydon Kuiper converted a pair to make it 50-47 with 29 seconds to play.
The Bears worked the ball around the perimeter before Yadao made his move around the 10-second mark, driving left and passing to Gozelski, who missed a contested layup.
King went for the follow and the ball never came down.
“That ball goes in instead of getting stuck, and it’s a whole different game,” Potter said. “You certainly can’t put it all on one way play, but it feels like that at the end.”
Neither team led by more than seven points in a game that featured nine ties and five lead changes. JDHS defeated Wasilla twice during the regular season by a combined 13 points, but those games were played in Juneau.
On a neutral floor Saturday, Wasilla’s Cole Schierman was 6 of 6 from the field and 3 of 3 from 3-point range, scoring a game-high 16 points. Three Wasilla players scored 10 — Kuiper, Wade Stahle and Devine.
Wasilla coach Ryan Engebretsen said seniors Schierman, Stahl and Joel Quenga made the difference.
“We just kept battling through and the seniors stepped up and made huge plays,” Engebretsen said. “We trusted them to make plays. At this point in the year, you just trust them to step up and make big plays. They were amazing.”
Yadao was the only player to score in double figures for JDHS, which finished with a 30-23 rebounding edge.
The Bears threw a variety of bodies at the 6-foot-9 Devine. The junior finished 3 of 10 from the field with four rebounds. King, Gozelski, Ryan Baldwin and Evan Gross all took turns guarding and attacking Devine, combining for 10 rebounds and 11 fouls.
Both coaches said this was the most physical game of the three this season.
“They did a good job of making him work for everything,” Engebretsen said. “He had to stay mentally tough enough to ... take the physical part of the game, and finish everything and keep battling through.”
JDHS shot 41 percent from the field. The Warriors made 6 of 13 from 3-point range.
The Bears, who struggled from the perimeter the entire tournament, were 3 of 10. Not much went the way of JDHS (17-8 overall) at state.
Saturday’s season-ending loss was especially difficult for seniors such as Gozelski, who in four appearances at state never finished higher than sixth.
“We were better this year. We could have done more,” Gozelski said. “It makes it more frustrating, definitely. But also, at least we know we could have done more.”
Slow starts doomed the Bears all weekend.
They fell behind Wasilla 11-7 through eight minutes and North Pole 11-8 after a quarter. Only a buzzer-beating jump shot from Gozelski gave JDHS an 8-6 lead entering the second period against Kodiak.
“We weren’t good enough,” Potter said. “We worked for it, but we didn’t do enough to get over the hump.”
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