West Valley took care of business at the free throw line during a 15-4 fourth-quarter run to put Thunder Mountain away Thursday, and the Wolfpack went on to top the Falcons 56-33 as snow blanketed Juneau outside.
A day after shooting just 6 of 15 from the charity stripe in a five-point loss to Juneau-Douglas in the de facto championship game of the 20th Annual Princess Cruises Capital City Classic, West Valley made 9 of 11 over the first 5:45 of the fourth quarter, turning a nine-point lead into a 47-27 advantage.
The Wolfpack knocked down shots and stifled the young Falcons’ offensive flow out of the gate, taking advantage of their edge in length, quickness and athleticism.
“Their ability to close out with big, long bodies was a factor in our shooting,” TMHS coach John Blasco said. “It’s tough when you don’t have guys to practice against that (can simulate that).”
West Valley opened the game with six straight points before Thunder Mountain got on the board after a steal by Josh Jones and a goaltending call, and the Wolfpack led 11-4 at the end of the first quarter.
Thunder Mountain scored eight straight to start the second period to take a 12-11 lead.
Sophomore guard Keith Ainsworth scored inside, then went behind the back with the dribble before sticking a runner in the lane, and then making a free throw. Sophomore guard Ty Grussendorf buried a 3-pointer from the corner to make it a 12-11 game in favor of the Falcons.
“We made some adjustments because we weren’t quick enough to guard them man-to-man, so we went to a zone and we were able to get some turnovers and make a run,” Blasco said. “But when you only play one of four quarters, you’re not going to win.”
Sophomre Larenzo Graham answered with a bucket off the dribble, William Vealy sprinted away for a lay-up, Graham got a stickback underneath and junior Kade Campbell scored on a baseline drive to push the Wolfpack back out front, 19-11.
West Valley led 21-16 at the break and scored the first four points of the third quarter. The Wolfpack took a 32-21 lead after a pull-up banker off the glass by Graham, and Jahn made a scoop shot in the lane to close the quarter for the Falcons, down 32-23.
The Wolfpack made just 18 of 27 free throws for the game, good for 66 percent, but after the 9 of 11 start to the fourth quarter, it was all academic after that.
“They definitely shot the ball much better than they did in (Juneau-Douglas’) gym. We have a little better lighting and I think they were more relaxed and comfortable,” Blasco said. “But there are always positives. We worked on some new things tonight and we’re going to continue to make adjustments. We threw a couple of things in there on the fly, and they tried to execute.
“This young group is going to continue to learn and it is a loss (in the record book), but you never lose when you learn.”
Ainsworth led Thunder Mountain with 12 points. Graham had 14 for West Valley.
The Falcons (1-5) are off until Jan. 6 when they travel to Lathrop. Prep basketball returns to Juneau on Jan. 14 when Juneau-Douglas (3-0) plays at Thunder Mountain in the Southeast Conference boys’ opener.
The Thunder Mountain girls (2-3) resume play Jan. 6 at Kodiak.