Strong shooting helped carry the Hoonah boys basketball team to Saturday's Class 2A state title game, but the Braves' shooting touch went cold when it mattered most.
Hoonah shot 23 percent from the field - and 12 percent from the 3-point line - as it fell to undefeated Cook Inlet Academy 45-33 at Service High School in Anchorage.
"It was one of the coldest shooting nights we had all season," Braves coach Gary Brown said. "Otherwise we had a great game."
Among other Southeast teams at the tournament, the Kake boys fell to Bristol Bay 56-53 on Saturday in the fourth-sixth place game. The Skagway girls beat fellow Southeast team Yakutat 19-13 in their fourth-sixth place game. Each team had lost their opening game at the tournament.
About 100 Hoonah fans were in the stands to see their boys team in the state 2A championship game for just the second time - the first was in 1998. Led by "No. 1 fan" Paula Starbard, the Braves fans made a lot of noise, but they couldn't help their team make enough shots on the court.
The game was delayed about an hour because some scorched nacho cheese in the concession stand set off the fire alarm earlier in the evening, and the gym had to be evacuated.
Once the game finally started, Hoonah (24-4 overall) got a pair of quick 3-point buckets from D.J. Lindstrom and Dustin Bowen to start the game ahead 6-0, but Cook Inlet (28-0 overall) answered, pounding the ball inside to center Blake Gabriel. The score was tied 13-13 after one period - and Hoonah saw the same 13 on the board for them at the half. Nothing would fall for the Braves in the second period, but very little fell for Cook Inlet either as the Eagles led 19-13.
Duain White made a tough shot in the lane to start the second half, and Lindstrom added a pair of shots to put Hoonah ahead briefly late in the third quarter. But a jumper by the Eagles' Brian Beeson at the third quarter buzzer gave Cook Inlet a 25-24 lead going into the final period.
The lid was back on the Hoonah basket in the final quarter as the Eagles went on a 20-9 run, getting three straight 3-pointers from their guards. The Braves were forced to foul, and the Eagles shot 7-for-10 from the free throw line to pad the lead in the final minute.
Lindstrom led the Braves with 13 points, and Bowen added 11. Gabriel led all scorers with 15, and Beeson added 12 for the Eagles.
"They're really tall, really disciplined as a team," Brown said of Cook Inlet. "You can tell they practice plays over and over, and they played a great game."
The Eagles reached Saturday's title game when Jeremy Franchino hit a 3-pointer at the final buzzer for a 44-43 win over Unalakleet in Friday's semifinal.
Hoonah advanced to the state championship game with a 55-51 semifinal win over Point Hope-Tikagaq on Friday.
The Harpooners sped to an early 10-2 advantage, but Hoonah came back and took the lead with two 3-pointers near the end of the first period by Devin Moritz. The teams went back and forth the rest of the game, with nine lead changes.
Tikigaq center Peter Tingook dominated in the paint, scoring a game-high 25 points and registering seven blocks. The Harpooners led by two at the half and 43-39 at the end of the third quarter, but Moritz kicked his offensive game again in the final quarter, hitting a three-pointer to tie the score at 43-all, and then giving the Braves a 49-46 lead on two driving layups with just over two minutes to go in the game.
But Tikigaq was not finished. Guards Amos Lane and Brian Tuzroyluke knocked down shots to put the Harpooners on top 51-50 with 1:15 left. Hoonah's Lindstrom then answered with a huge 3-pointer - his only points of the game - with 40 seconds left for a 53-51 lead.
The Harpooners were unable to get off a good shot on three trips down the floor and were forced to foul. Moritz converted one free throw, and sophomore Michael Koenig added the game- clincher with four seconds left for the 55-51 win.
"We hung in tough," said Hoonah coach Gary Brown. "We had a few mental breakdowns, but we always seem to come back at the end. We stay mentally tough at the end."
Moritz led the Braves with 18 points, and Bowen added 14.
The Braves finished the season as Southeast champions, and will say goodbye to three seniors - Bowen, White and Wilbur Skeek - from this year's squad.
"We really wanted to do this for the seniors," Brown said of trying to win a state title. "They are hard-working kids who left everything out on the court. They are winners in my book."
Bristol Bay knocked off five-time defending state champion Ninilchik 32-24 to claim the Class 2A girls title on Saturday. In the Class 1A state tournament, the Buckland beat New Stuyahok 40-33 on Saturday to win the girls title, while Noorvik beat Newhalen 67-59 for the boys crown. There are no Class 1A schools in Southeast.
Details on the other Southeast teams' state tournament runs will run later this week in the Empire.
Jeff Brady of The Skagway News reported from Anchorage.
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