ANCHORAGE - If the Yakutat girls basketball team felt sore after a night full of diving for loose balls on Sullivan Arena's hardwood, the Eagles were too busy celebrating to care.
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Yakutat defeated Tikigaq 51-44 Thursday to win its first Class 2A state championship.
"We've wanted it for so long," the Eagles' Rose Fraker said while wiping away tears of joy. "All season long it's been a team effort and we've worked so well together."
Fraker's statistics reflected the frantic, up-and-down nature of Friday's final. She posted 10 points, 10 steals and six rebounds. She also helped lead a turnaround in the fourth quarter.
Down 40-36, Yakutat turned up its defense and limited Tikigaq to just four points in the final eight minutes.
"We knew they might be able to hang with us for three quarters but we weren't sure they could for four," Yakutat coach Joe Klushkan said. "I wasn't really sure about it but I had a feeling after watching (Tikigaq) play the night before. I knew if we kept the tempo high and kept the ball moving quickly up and down the court we might tire them out."
Yakutat outscored Tikigaq 15-4 in the final eight minutes.
The last quarter proved a perfect ending to Yakutat's nonstop pressure game.
Both teams came out looking to run, attack and steal every loose ball. The Harpoonerettes and Eagles fearlessly flung their bodies for loose balls and frequently collided with each other in an effort to be crowned best in Alaska.
"We're always looking to run," Yakutat's Sharnel Vale said.
Tikigaq's formidable pressure led to some fast break points in the third quarter. Nancy Timothy and Rush Nash scored four points each as the Harpoonerettes took a 40-36, with eight minutes remaining in regulation.
Yakutat turned the tide in the fourth quarter, however. Backed by a pulsing crowd, including about 10 fans painted in orange and black, Yakutat received points from Esther Esbenshade, Heidi Esbenshade, Justyne Wheeler, Vale and Rose Fraker in the decisive quarter.
Heidi Esbenshade led all scorers with 23 points and five steals. Vale added eight points and seven rebounds.
As a team, Yakutat made 24 steals and forced Tikigaq into 37 turnovers.
The win gives Yakutat its first girls basketball state title, one year after the Eagles' boys team captured the 2A crown.
"It's awesome," Klushkan said. "These girls worked so hard and never gave up."
Yakutat knocked down three 3-pointers in the first quarter to seize a 17-10 lead.
Tikigaq battled back in the second half to tie the game at 25-25 as Carol Omnik hit a jumper. Heidi Esbenshade responded with two free throws as Yakutat seized a 27-25 halftime lead.
Yakutat 51, Tikigaq 44
Yakutat - 17 10 9 15 - 55
Tikigaq - 10 15 15 4 - 44
Yakutat (51) - H. Esbenshade 7-15 8-12 23; K. Fraker 1-2 0-0 2; S. Schumacher 2-6 1-2 5; Wheeler 1-2 0-0 2; Williams 0-0 0-0 0; R. Fraker 3-6 2-4 10; E. Esbenshade 0-6 1-2 1; Vale 4-8 0-0 0.
Tikigaq (44) - Attungana 0-0 0-0 0; Burgess 1-5 0-0 2; Nash 5-12 4-4 14; Omnik 5-14 0-2 10; Timothy 5-17 2-6 12; Lane 1-6 2-6 4; A. Lane 0-1 0-0 0; Frankson 1-1 0-0 2.
3-point shots - Yakutat 3-11 (R. Fraker 2, S. Schumacher 1), Tikigaq 0-6.
Rebounds - Yakutat 28 (Vale 7), Tikigaq 49 (S. Lane 12).
Assists - Yakutat 9 (H. Esbenshade 3), Tikigaq 8 (Timothy 5).
Foul shots - Yakutat 12-20, Tikigaq 8-18.
Fouled out - Yakutat 1 (S. Shumacher), Tikigaq 1 (Timothy).
Fouls - Yakutat 17, Tikigaq 19.
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