The Skagway girls basketball team was nervous before its first state tournament game in 20 years.
You wouldn't have known it by the way the Panthers performed on the court.
Junior Savannah Ames scored 14 points in the first four minutes of the game, and the Panther girls cruised to a 57-35 victory over Tri-Valley of Healy on Thursday to open the Class 2A state basketball tourney in Anchorage.
Ames finished with 28 points and sophomore Michelle Harris added 16 for Skagway (17-3 overall), which advances to face four-time defending champion Ninilchik at 8:30 p.m. tonight.
"It was amazing," Skagway coach Lara Labesky said of Ames' performance. "It was a pretty incredible show.
"She was shooting so great, and it really picked the team up. They were playing great defense, which got her those open shots."
In other state tourney games involving Southeast teams Thursday, the defending state champion Hydaburg boys beat Tok 51-30; the Yakutat girls lost to Galena 31-15; and the Angoon boys fell to Galena 76-64.
Skagway faced some travel delays on its way to Anchorage, which caused the team to miss its scheduled practice time Wednesday on the state tourney court at Service High School.
But the Panthers - led by Ames - came out shooting in Thursday's game. Skagway took a 13-2 lead on the Viking Warriors when Ames hit a 3-pointer with 5:33 to play in the first quarter, and Ames followed with another 3-pointer 23 seconds later to give her 14 points in the game.
Sophomore Candi Ketterman hit four straight points - she had 10 in the game - to give Skagway a 20-4 lead with 2:12 left in the opening period, and the Panthers led 22-6 at the end of the quarter.
Skagway made nearly as many shots (eight) as Tri-Valley attempted (nine) in the quarter.
The Panthers led 37-12 at halftime and 48-18 entering the fourth quarter.
Grace Milliken scored 14 points, and Kaitlin Kloster added 12 points and 14 rebounds for Tri-Valley (19-7).
Skagway advances to face the Ninilchik Wolverines in a semifinal game tonight, with the winner reaching Saturday's championship game. Ninilchik (22-1) beat Point Hope-Tikigaq 48-44 in overtime on Thursday.
The Panthers lost to the Wolverines 32-27 last month in a tournament at Tok. Skagway was ahead in the fourth quarter of that game, but let the lead slip away.
Since that game, Ninilchik was upset in the early rounds of its region tournament and had to fight in the losers' bracket to earn a state berth. Labesky said she thinks Skagway has a good shot of toppling the defending champs.
"I have a lot of confidence in this team," she said of the Panthers. "I think we'll do well against them."
Hydaburg boys 51, Tok boys 30
George Peratrovich scored 20 points, Ben Young netted 13 and Reginald Nathan added 10 as the Warriors opened the defense of their state title with a commanding win over the Wolverines.
Hydaburg (17-3) broke the game open with an 18-5 run in the second quarter and led 26-10 at the half.
"We played well," Hydaburg coach Jim Holien said. "We came out a little jittery, but that's to be expected. The first quarter we both sort of just felt each other out and I think our guys were a little nervous, but we had a really good second quarter and after that we settled in. ...
"We had some success pressing them, and we got a lot of hands into the passing lanes to force some turnovers. I was really happy with the pressure we had on them. We forced some five-counts too, so I was really pleased with the performance defensively."
The Warriors move on to face Bristol Bay (18-8) in a semifinal game at 3:30 p.m. today; Bristol Bay beat Selawik 55-36 on Thursday. The Warriors beat the Angels 73-58 in last year's state tournament semifinals.
"They have a lot of the guys from last season back, and they have really good team speed," Holien said of Bristol Bay. "We saw them last season, and they're a good team. They'll be a much better team than we played today."
Galena boys 76, Angoon boys 64
The Hawks extended a three-point halftime lead with a 21-14 third-quarter run to beat the Eagles.
Angoon (14-9) trailed 28-17 in the first half before rallying to cut Galena's lead to 41-38 at the intermission. Bailey Johnson scored 15 of his game-high 23 points in the first half for the Eagles.
But Angoon could not continue its comeback in the second half. Galena (23-1) pulled away with 20 points from Matt Thurmond and 19 from Tyler Huntington.
Stephen Johnson and Loren Sands added 15 points apiece for Angoon, which will play Point Hope-Tikigaq in a consolation-bracket game at 9:40 a.m. today. Stuart Jack scored 11 points for the Eagles, and Bailey Johnson added eight rebounds and eight steals.
Galena girls 31, Yakutat girls 15
The Hawks led 16-4 at halftime and kept cruising in the second half to beat the Eagles.
Yakutat (17-6) was playing without guard Hannah Esbenshade, one of the team's leading players, who suffered a knee injury at last week's Region V tourney.
Magen James and Ashton Schmidt led Yakutat with five points apiece. Jennal Burgett scored 10 to lead Galena (18-5).
Yakutat will face Unalakleet-Degnan in a consolation-bracket game at 11:20 a.m. today.
Nick Firchau of the Ketchikan Daily News contributed to this report. Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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