KETCHIKAN - The Skagway High School girls basketball team kept its cool when it counted on Saturday night in Ketchikan, as the Panthers closed the Region V-Class 2A championship game on a 11-1 run to beat Yakutat 39-34, giving Skagway its first regional title in school history.
"We were never really worried," said Skagway junior Savannah Ames, who scored a game-high 20 points and eight of the Panthers' final 10. "When you get nervous, things start going wrong. I don't think there was moment when we ever lost our cool or our confidence."
Sophomore Candi Ketterman added eight points for top-seeded Skagway (16-3), which later this week makes its first trip to the Class 2A state tournament since 1984.
"The last team that made it to state had some of the mothers of these girls on it," Skagway coach Lara Labesky said. "It feels great. They know what they've accomplished, and they're very aware of the sense of history involved."
Junior Jacquoi James scored a team-high 17 points for second-seeded Yakutat (17-5), which led by five with just under five minutes left in the fourth before hitting just one free throw down the stretch.
The Eagles - who earned the region's other berth in the state tournament by reaching Saturday's championship game - played without sophomore Hannah Esbenshade, who suffered a knee injury in Thursday's opening-round win over Hydaburg and played sparingly in Friday's semifinals.
Sophomore Ashton Schmidt added seven points for Yakutat.
After trailing 21-17 at halftime, the Eagles rallied in the third and held the Panthers to just two buckets from the field, both from Ames. Yakutat led 33-28 with 4:54 left after an inside bucket by Jones, but Ames hit a key 3-pointer with 2:58 left - her only one of the night - to give Skagway a one-point lead and the momentum it would ride in the final two minutes. She added a steal at half-court from Yakutat freshman Sylvia Schumacher with just under a minute remaining, and turned it into a three-point play with a lay-up and a foul on Schumacher at the other end.
"We knew that just because our shot wasn't falling didn't mean we couldn't defense," Ames said. "This is an awesome group of girls, and we feel really confident right now. We're excited to get a shot at state."
Details on all-conference awards will run later this week in the Empire.
Third-fifth place game
Klawock 41, Hoonah 35
Junior Kaleigh Ryno scored 19 points - including nine in the fourth quarter - as fifth-seeded Klawock surged past third-seeded Hoonah to earn its second win of the tournament over a higher-seeded team and earn third place.
Senior Alisa Meece scored 11 first-quarter points en route to 17 for the game for Klawock (6-9), who led 18-5 in the early going before Hoonah recovered. Hoonah closed the lead to two points heading into the fourth, but managed just three baskets from the field down the stretch as the Chieftains pulled away.
Amber Lampe hit four 3-pointers and finished with 16 points for Hoonah (12-7), and Kristi Skaflestad added six.
Fourth-sixth place game
Kake 39, Angoon 23
Senior Lakrista Ekis scored 11 points and junior Megan Gregory added eight for fourth-seeded Kake in the win. Sophomore Falen Mills added seven points for the Thunderbirds (7-10), who led 23-12 at halftime and held Angoon to one basket from the field in the third quarter.
Junior Teresa Dyson scored 14 points for Angoon (4-13), and junior Chenara Kookesh added five.
Skagway 39, Klawock 27
Junior Savannah Ames led all scorers with 22 points and sophomore Candi Ketterman scored seven as the top-seeded Panthers rallied from a four-point deficit at halftime to beat fifth-seeded Klawock and earn a berth in the Class 2A state tournament for the first time since 1984.
Skagway earned the right to play second-seeded Yakutat in Saturday's championship game in a matchup pitting the third (Skagway) and fourth-ranked teams in the state, according to the March 18 Alaska Sportswriters Prep Basketball Poll. The teams split their two-game set during the regular season.
Sophomore Tiffanie Potter added six points for Skagway (15-3), which outscored Klawock 17-2 in the third quarter and took a 29-18 lead into the fourth quarter. Ames scored nine of her points in the third.
Junior Kaleigh Ryno scored 16 points for upset-minded Klawock (5-9), and senior Alisa Meece added six.
Yakutat 32, Hoonah 24
Junior Jacquoi James led all scorers with 14 points as second-seeded Yakutat earned a berth in the state tournament and in Saturday's championship final against Skagway with a win over third-seeded Hoonah.
Sophomore Hannah Esbenshade added eight points - including a pair of 3 pointers - for Yakutat (16-4), who won the regional tournament in 2002 but missed the state tournament last season.
The Eagles pulled ahead in the third quarter after an 11-11 tie at halftime, and then made 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Amber Lampe scored nine points for Hoonah (12-6). The Braves struggled from the free throw line, making just 5-of-13 attempts, including a 1-for-5 showing in the fourth quarter.
Angoon 54, Hydaburg 27
Junior Sophie George scored 15 points on five 3-pointers and junior Teresa Dyson scored 14 as sixth-seeded Angoon stayed alive in the consolation bracket with the win over seventh-seeded Hydaburg.
Junior Chenara Kookesh scored nine points for Angoon (4-12), which faced fourth-seeded Kake in Saturday's fourth-place game. Kake received a bye in the consolation bracket on Friday. Thorne Bay did not field a girls team this season, leaving just seven squads in the bracket.
Angoon jumped out to an early 14-6 lead and led 33-14 at halftime, thanks to all 15 of George's points in the first half.
Senior Karmen Edenshaw scored six points and sophomore Gwen Peratrovich and freshman Mary Cline scored five each for Hydaburg (0-14), which was eliminated from the tournament with the loss.