The visiting Thunder Mountain High School students broke into a chant of “I believe that we can win” Friday night as the fourth quarter’s final seconds ticked away.
It was a well-founded belief as the TMHS basketball team (11-5, 2-1 in-conference) was putting the finishing touches on a 65-44 win over crosstown rivals at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé (3-12 overall, 0-1 in-conference).
“It was definitely a closer game than that,” TMHS basketball coach John Blasco said in a post-game interview. “I wouldn’t say it felt like a 20-point game.”
In the second quarter, TMHS barely outscored JDHS 14-13, and in the third quarter the Crimson Bears outscored their opponents 13-10. However, by virtue of a strong first quarter — the Falcons outscored the Crimson Bears 20-9 — TMHS enjoyed a comfortable lead throughout the game. Plus, TMHS finished strong mostly sinking their free throws as JDHS tried to slow the pace of the game, Blasco said.
He said the matchup being a homecoming game for JDHS and the opportunity to play spoiler didn’t play much of a role in getting his team ready to compete.
“There’s always enough excitement coming out and playing the crosstown rival,” Blasco said.
Meki Toutaiolepo was a big part of why Thunder Mountain prevailed.
The junior, who wore a wrist brace and said he is playing through a scaphoid injury led all scorers with 19 points.
“I feel pretty good,” Toutaiolepo said after the game. “It was a tough-fought game.”
Toutaiolepo said he was particularly proud of a fake near the top of the key that led to a floater and two points.
He was one of three players on Thunder Mountain to put up a double-digit point total. The backcourt tandem of Brady Carandang, 15 points, and Bryson Echiverri, 17, were the other two.
Cooper Kriegmont led the scoring for JDHS with 12 points. He was the only Crimson Bear to crack the 10-point barrier, which was noted by Crimson Bears coach Robert Casperson after the game.
Casperson said after the game Kriegmont’s scoring was impressive because he had been playing through the flu.
“He’s whooped,” Casperson said.
TMHS went on to defeat JDHS again on Saturday night in a close-fought match that ended 62-50.
“You never know what’s gonna happen, and J-D is always a tough opponent,” Blasco said. “We were able to get two conference wins.”
Blasco credits his team’s gumption in holding it together as JDHS made a late game run.
“I’m pleased with the guys Saturday being able to play through,” Blasco said. “It rattled us and made the game a 3-point game but we hung together.
TMHS has no games this weekend; Blasco said the team will be taking the weekend off to rest and recover.
Lady Falcons lose a pair of close ones in Ketchikan
The Thunder Mountain High School girls lost a pair of heart-breakers this weekend in Ketchikan.
Ketchikan beat the Lady Falcons 45-41 on Friday and 46-43 Saturday.
“We led both games in the fourth quarter,” TMHS coach Andy Lee said in a phone interview. “In fact, we led both games with under two minutes remaining. We’re learning to win and sometimes that can be painful.”
He said the team would prefer to win by 50, but the hard experience is valuable, too.
He said Riley Traxler, twins Mary Khaye and Mary Neal Garcia and Avery Kreischer were standout performers during the trip, and while the results weren’t ideal the team is on the upswing.
“We played better, and we’re a different team than we were a month ago,” Lee said.
He said the team can continue to build on that as it heads toward tournament play.
Starting Wednesday, the Lady Falcons will be in Anchorage playing in the Dimond Lady Lynx invitational.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt