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The Kake Thunderbirds upset the top small schools team in the state's poll Thursday as they opened play in the Class 2A boys state basketball tournament at Service High School in Anchorage.
Kake, which was ranked seventh in the poll, slowed down the pace as it claimed a 33-30 victory over the Seldovia Sea Otters. The victory caught many people by surprise, including some of Kake's fans.
``Wow,'' Kake junior Anthony Dolan told the Anchorage Daily News. ``This is amazing. Nobody thought we could do it.''
``We were just hoping we wouldn't get blown out,'' said Kake coach Dwayne Davies, who is in his 17th year as the team's coach. ``We were expected to get blown out. They (Kake's fans) told me not to feel too bad when it happens.''
Kake joined the Angoon boys in today's championship semifinals after the Eagles claimed a 65-48 victory over the Nulato Wolves in another first-round game. In the two other boys first-round games, Tri-Valley beat Bristol Bay 56-41 and Tanana beat Minto 60-45.
Angoon plays Tri-Valley in tonight's 7:10 p.m. semifinal, while Kake plays Tanana at 8:45 p.m. in the other semifinal. The winners advance to Saturday's 8:45 p.m. championship game, and today's losers play in Saturday's third-fifth place game at 12:45 p.m.
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The Southeast teams didn't fare as well in the girls Class 2A tournament as both teams found themselves on the short end of the score. The Unalakleet-Degnan Wolfpack claimed a 51-45 overtime victory over the third-ranked Yakutat Eagles and the top-ranked Ninilchik Wolverines cruised to a 69-32 victory over the Kake Thunderbirds. In the other first-round games, Seldovia beat Tri-Valley 50-30 and Minto edged Point HopeTikigaq 45-42.
Yakutat played Tri-Valley in today's 8:45 a.m. consolation semifinal, while Kake played Point Hope at 10:30 a.m. in the other consolation game. The winners of the consolation games play at 8 a.m. Saturday in the fourth-sixth place game while the losers are eliminated from the tournament. The girls championship game is at 7 p.m. Saturday.
In Kake's upset victory over Seldovia, the Thunderbirds outscored the Sea Otters 8-1 over the last three minutes of the game. Dolan hit back-to-back jumpers, including a 3-pointer with 1 minute, 16 seconds left that gave his team the lead for good. Ben Kondro hit a free throw a few seconds later to make Kake's lead three points, then Seldovia's Jeff Swick missed a fallaway 3-pointer at the buzzer.
``I was rusty the first half,'' Dolan said. ``Everything was long or short. I just tried staying confident.''
Kake won the Class 2A state championship in 1984 and 1987, but it's been six years since Kake last reached the state tournament.
``This is real sweet,'' Davies said. ``This is a real special group.''
``The state semifinals has a nice ring to it,'' Dolan said. ``We have to be ready.''
Dolan scored 14 points to lead the Thunderbirds, which outscored Seldovia 14-6 in the third quarter, plus he made three steals. Joshua Hawk added 10 points and three steals for the T-Birds, who were outrebounded 33-21 in the game. Swick scored 15 points to lead Seldovia, while Daewon Mickelson added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
In Angoon's victory, Lester Pitka scored 22 points and made five steals to lead the Eagles. Walter Kookesh added 14 points and nine rebounds and Jason Frank scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds for Angoon. Arvin Ekada scored 16 points and grabbed 18 rebounds to lead Nulato, while Glenn Demoski and Darren Hildebrand both chipped in nine points.
In girls action, Timayre Towarak came back from an ankle injury to score six points in the second half as Unalakleet rallied from a seven-point deficit to beat Yakutat. Beatrice Katongan made four free throws in the overtime period to clinch the victory for the Wolfpack.
Jessica Ivanoff scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Unalakleet, while Katongan and Towarak both scored eight points. Jasmine James scored 15 points and grabbed eight boards to lead Yakutat, while Stephanie Johnson had 12 points, eight rebounds and five steals.
In the late girls game, Ninilchik cruised to a 35-11 halftime lead over Kake as the Wolverines looked ready to reclaim the state title it lost to Klawock last year. Ninilchik made 25 steals in the game, while Kake only had 11.
Freshman guard Whitney Leman scored 28 points and dished out six assists to lead Ninilchik, which is shooting for its third state title in five years, while senior Theresa Chihuly added 18 points and senior Tasha Leman scored 10 points. Danielle Knudsen scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead Kake, while Robin Knudsen added 14 points.