TMHS sophomore Cailynn Baxter (center) is swarmed by teammates following a last-second, game-winning shot against JDHS Tuesday night. The teams have met two times so far this season and each game has come down to the wire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

TMHS sophomore Cailynn Baxter (center) is swarmed by teammates following a last-second, game-winning shot against JDHS Tuesday night. The teams have met two times so far this season and each game has come down to the wire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

TMHS secures another close win against JDHS

The Juneau teams will meet again on Feb. 28 and March 1.

The Thunder Mountain High School girls basketball team hosted cross-town rivals Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on Tuesday for another game decided in its final seconds.

Though JDHS maintained the lead at times, it was TMHS who would walk away victorious with a 37-36 finish. TMHS coach Andy Lee said these continual close contests between schools, like the 43-41 game played on Tuesday, Feb. 14, is exactly why it’s called a “rivalry.”

“It’s not just that we won but that we competed at a high level,” Lee said. “We didn’t play our best, we still have some things to work out, but the kids are figuring out ways to win, tonight we figured out a way to win. We’re not done, we haven’t played our best game yet.”

JDHS senior Carlynn Casperson (3) drives toward the hoop during a Tuesday night game at Thunder Mountain High School. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

JDHS senior Carlynn Casperson (3) drives toward the hoop during a Tuesday night game at Thunder Mountain High School. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

The first quarter saw JDHS put up the first 6 points with 2 points coming from senior Kiyara Miller and 4 points coming from junior Mila Hargrave. TMHS didn’t stay off the board for long, however, once junior Mikah Caradang managed to hit a 3-point shot followed by sophomore Kerra Baxter picking up 2 points and a foul. Jaya Caradang followed her sister Mikah in true twin fashion by then putting up a 3-point shot of her own along with a steal and easy layup for good measure. But after JDHS freshman Gwen Nizich caught a long pass from senior Skylar Tuckwood down court and turned it into 2 points, Hargrave and senior Ashley Laudert each scored, tying the game at 12 by the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter got off to a slower start with the first point not being scored until four minutes into the period. While JDHS’ Tuckwood had 5 points and Hargrave had 2, all of TMHS’ points for the second quarter came from Cailynn and Kerra Baxter taking turns with free throw shots from fouls, leaving the game still tied at 19 by the end of the second quarter.

JDHS freshman Gwen Nizich (15) flips the ball to her teammate sophomore Tatum Billings (14) and away from TMHS sophomore Cailynn Baxter (23) in the first half of a Tuesday night game at Thunder Mountain. TMHS would prevail 37-36 despite trailing going into the fourth quarter. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

JDHS freshman Gwen Nizich (15) flips the ball to her teammate sophomore Tatum Billings (14) and away from TMHS sophomore Cailynn Baxter (23) in the first half of a Tuesday night game at Thunder Mountain. TMHS would prevail 37-36 despite trailing going into the fourth quarter. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

In the third, JDHS slowly started to pull ahead with strong shooting from Tuckwood, Hargrave and Miller, however, more Crimson Bears fouls against the Baxter twins kept TMHS in close range. While JDHS managed to end the third quarter in the lead, 31-24, the fourth quarter belonged to the Falcons. With more free-throw shots from both Baxter sisters along with additional scoring from Mikah Caradang and junior Ashlynn Gates, Thunder Mountain managed to trail JDHS by only 1 point into the last 10 seconds of the game. Though there were many timeouts and out-of-bounds balls within those final 10 seconds, a quick layup from Cailynn Baxter in the last three seconds proved to be the deciding factor in what was a close game all throughout.

Lee attributed Tuesday’s win to a simple matter of mental toughness and accumulating experience.

“Young teams, when they grow, they grow beyond their physical talent and so we’re showing some signs of that.” Lee said. “Tonight was a classic growth thing, we demonstrated some mental maturity. We were 7 or 8 points down entering the fourth quarter and we didn’t fold. Last year, that might have turned into a 12- or-15 point lead, but we’ve calmed down and we’ve got an excellent bench. I have three or four players at the end of the bench that are just as important to this game because they keep us honest in practice, they keep us focused during the game, so it’s a 12-player effort.”

The TMHS bench reacts to a foul call late in a Tuesday night home win against JDHS. The final seconds of the game gave them plenty of reason to cheer as TMHS was able to complete a narrow comeback victory. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

The TMHS bench reacts to a foul call late in a Tuesday night home win against JDHS. The final seconds of the game gave them plenty of reason to cheer as TMHS was able to complete a narrow comeback victory. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

TMHS holds a 15-7 record with a 4-2 conference record, while JDHS now sits at 13-7 with a 2-2 conference record. The Crimson Bears next host Ketchikan High School at home for two conference games at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday before facing off against TMHS once again for two mid-week conference games starting at 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at Thunder Mountain and March 1 at Juneau-Douglas.

• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at jonson.kuhn@juneauempire.com.

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