After losing four key players from last year's region and state championship teams, the Angoon High School boys basketball team knew there were going to be some big shoes to fill as the Eagles entered the season.
But with a bumper crop of freshmen mixing well with the remaining upperclassmen, the Eagles were able to repeat as Region V-Class 2A champions with a 64-58 victory over the Kake Thunderbirds Saturday night at the Juneau-Douglas High School main gym.
"Those guys were role models," Angoon freshman Ozelle Jamestown said. "We wanted to be like them. We had some big shoes to fill, but we didn't fill them yet."
Angoon and Kake will both head to Anchorage for the Class 2A state tournament March 29-31 at Service High School.
"It took awhile for us to learn how to play together, but we're doing pretty good now," Angoon senior Mike Pitka said. "We've got some good freshmen."
The Eagles had eight freshmen on the team this year, and Jamestown wasn't the only one to step up. Freshman guard Stephen Johnson scored a team-high 20 points in the championship game Saturday, with 12 of those points coming in the fourth quarter of what he said was his best game of the year.
"We played our hearts out," Angoon senior Travis Woodbury said. "That boy, Stephen Johnson, really stepped up. There were some big shoes to fill, and they did awesome."
"We just came out and did what we had to do," Johnson said. "This feels real good. We did this in the memory of Johnny Hunter (Woodbury's father, who died earlier this year)."
Jamestown and Woodbury, who scored 13 points, both made the all-conference team for Angoon. Anthony Dolan and Jesse Reese made the team from Kake, while Mitchell Snyder and Ray Hosford made it from Skagway, Jarret Brown and Kevin Skeek made it from Hoonah, Skye Endicott and Derek James represented Yakutat, George Peratrovich made it from Hydaburg and Sam Sawyer made it from Thorne Bay.
In a rematch of last year's region and state championship games, the Eagles rebounded from an eight-point halftime deficit to claim their third straight region championship, the first time that's happened for a boys team in Region V-Class 2A history, Angoon coach Kevin O'Brien said.
"I thought we beat ourselves in the first half," O'Brien said. "We were missing our shots, and giving them easy baskets. I told them we had to play our usual tenacious defense and, if we could get a couple of shots to fall and get going, I thought we could swing the momentum our way."
"Coach came out and told us what we had to do," Johnson said.
Kake jumped out to a 7-0 lead and led 9-4 as Matt Appel scored the first nine points for the Thunderbirds, who won the regular-season title. Kake led 17-14 at the end of the first quarter, and made it 32-24 at halftime as Kake's Anthony Dolan scored the last eight points of the half to break a 24-24 tie.
Dolan, who had 15 points in the first half, went cold in the second half and Angoon started a 20-4 run that put the Eagle up by eight midway through the third quarter. Kake closed the margin to 46-42 entering the fourth quarter, but Angoon went on another run that pushed the lead to 11 points, 61-50, with 2:56 left in the game. Dolan finally scored his first points of the half with 2:04 left, nailing a pair of 3-pointers.
Angoon's lead was down to three points, 61-58, with 1:23 left, but Kake couldn't get a shot to fall. Jamestown hit a free throw with 22.8 seconds remaining, and Johnson made a steal and scored at the buzzer for the final margin.
Third-fifth place game Panthers 71, Warriors 62
Mitchell Snyder scored 35 points to lead Skagway over Hydaburg in Saturday's third-place game.
Ray Hosford added eight points for the Panthers, while Tyson Ames scored seven points and the duo of Thomas Cochran and Kyle Ellis had six each.
Vince Edenshaw scored 21 points to lead Hydaburg, which only trailed by one point, 35-34, at halftime. George Peratrovich added 17 points, while Jamall Travis scored 13 for the Warriors.
Fourth-sixth place game Eagles 59, Braves 47
Martin Sensmeier led Yakutat to fourth place with 17 points Saturday as the Eagles topped Hoonah.
Derek James added 13 points for Yakutat, while Jake Endicott scored 12 points and Skye Endicott added nine.
Jarret Brown scored 16 points to lead Hoonah and Donald Dybdahl scored 12.
Friday's semifinals Eagles 76, Panthers 75
Angoon stole the inbounds pass with 3.4 seconds left to play to stop a Skagway rally in one of Friday night's semifinal games.
The Eagles led by 11 points early in the fourth quarter, but Skagway pulled to within striking distance down the stretch. Angoon led by four points with 8.8 seconds left when Mitchell Snyder went to the free-throw line. Snyder made his first free throw, then purposely missed his second one, grabbing the rebound and scoring to pull Skagway within one point. Angoon then threw away the ball, and Skagway had one final chance to win the game.
Mike Pitka and Ozelle Jamestown scored 19 points each to lead Angoon, with Clayton Edwin adding 16 points and Travis Woodbury 15.
Snyder scored 39 points to lead Skagway and Kyle Ellis added eight points.
Friday's semifinals Thunderbirds 75, Warriors 70
Anthony Dolan scored nine of his 23 points in the fourth quarter as Kake came from behind to beat upset-minded Hydaburg in a Friday night semifinal game.
Jesse Reese added 19 points for Kake, including the free throws that finally put the T-Birds in the lead with 2:07 left in the game. Kyle Anderson scored nine points for Kake.
George Peratrovich scored 24 points to lead Hydaburg and Vince Edenshaw added 23 and Jamall Travis had nine.
Friday's consolation Eagles 70, Chieftains 48
Martin Sensmeier scored 23 points and Skye Endicott added 17 as Yakutat eliminated Klawock in Friday's consolation play.
Kris Karsunsky added 11 points for the Eagles, who nailed 13 3-pointers in the game.
Travis Macasact scored 14 points to lead Klawock, while Jared Williams added 13 points and Shawn Kato-Yates scored 12 for the Chieftains.
Friday's consolation Braves 85, Wolverines 47
Donald Dybdahl scored 21 points as Hoonah eliminated Thorne Bay in Friday's consolation bracket.
Ryan Neal added 17 points and Kevin Skeek had 16 for Hoonah.
Sam Sawyer scored 23 points for Thorne Bay and R.J. Weight added 11.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.