Thunder Mountain’s Garth Tupou screams in celebration after his shot at the buzzer gave TMHS the upset over Juneau-Douglas at JDHS on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. TMHS won 49-48. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain’s Garth Tupou screams in celebration after his shot at the buzzer gave TMHS the upset over Juneau-Douglas at JDHS on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. TMHS won 49-48. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A Season in Review: Thunder Mountain boys basketball

To mark the end of basketball season, the Empire is highlighting all four high school basketball teams. Read the TMHS girls’ season review here; the JDHS girls’ season review here; and the JDHS boys’ season review here. You can also find the season summaries in the print newspaper in the following editions: April 5 (JDHS girls), April 6 (JDHS boys), April 7 (TMHS girls) and April 9 (TMHS boys).

With nine senior members, the Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball team featured the largest such class in school history. Even with starter Mahina Toutaiolepo sidelined with a torn ACL, the expectations were rightly raised leading up to the beginning of the season. Captain Chase Saviers went so far as to say they wanted to contend for a state championship. Unfortunately, they ran up against a hot Ketchikan team and much-improved JDHS team in the Region V tournament, denying the Falcons a Region V championship.

The Falcons overcame a 3-6 start with a 10-game mid-season win streak, stitched together oh so delicately by Garth Tupou’s homecoming buzzer-beater that just beat JDHS (49-48 score) in the first regular season game between the two sides.

Chase Saviers eclipsed the 1,000-point milestone, becoming just the third Falcon to accomplish the scoring feat. Noah Reishus-O’Brien established himself as a top-tier scorer in the state who was increasingly comfortable driving into the paint as he was shooting from three. John Morris could jump out of the gym, using several breakaways to test his flight skills. But in the end, there was just one player who ignited both the offense and defense: Saviers. He was every bit as deserving as the other 14 players who made it on the all-state team.

Q&A with Coach John Blasco

What were the biggest challenges your team faced this season?

Two big challenges come to mind: our schedule and our conference. We played 26 games in total when including four endowment games — 10 straight weekends from the end of December through to the region tournament. We played five games in seven days between our final home series and the region tournament. Playing every weekend takes a toll on a team as players never get to rest, fully heal up from minor injuries or have that fresh legs feeling. Additionally, you aren’t able to get in the extra practice time you look for as a coach to make changes as you are focused on preparing for that next opponent.

The Southeast Conference has been incredibly competitive these last two years and consists of two teams finishing fifth or higher at the state tournament in back-to-back years. People are starting to see how strong of a conference it is with the multi-team representation at state. Playing each team four times is a grind, and we came up a game short of being one of those two teams to represent Southeast at state this season.

What’s one interesting or surprising thing about your team that most people don’t know about?

It was the largest senior class we have ever had. It was also the most all-academic seniors ever (I think seven). Lastly, we played almost the entire season without two guys (Mahina Toutaiolepo and Luke Clark) that were key contributors last season and expected to be again this season. The senior class took academics seriously and represented the school well at regions. Everyone stepped up their play and the team rebounded from a disappointing six-win season last year to being over .500 this season.

What was the most fun game to coach in this season?

It was a weekend of games that was the most fun when we hosted Lathrop for a triple overtime game and Ketchikan for two conference games. I was incredibly proud of how the guys performed both mentally and physically. A triple overtime game is very exhausting, and they bounced back to win two more games against a top-5 team (in the state). This series capped off a 10-game win streak for us.

How did you see your boys’ confidence grow over the course of the season?

It took 10 games for us to find a groove. … It took me several weeks to get back into the flow with the team after missing the first four weeks for the birth of my son. We played three of our first four weeks on the road and without a full roster. We opened a series against Colony without our senior captain Riley Olsen. Players stepped up big to fill his spot and get us started on a 10-game winning streak. This streak built confidence in players who had played limited minutes previously.

What areas of the game will you try to better next season?

Losing nine seniors, including four starters, means we will be a young team next season. We will lack height once again and need to focus more on our defense. Consistency on defense will be important when looking at the talent returning for both of our conference opponents. Additionally, we need to reestablish our offense as we lose 85 percent of our scoring with the graduation of the senior class.

Team roster

Brady Carandang

Zebadiah Storie

John Morris

Roy Tupou

Owen Mendoza

Chase Saviers

Kaiden Ward

Noah Reishus-O’Brien

Josh McAndrews

Luke Clark

Riley Olsen

Garth Tupou

Cale Jenkins

Coaches

John Blasco

Rob Ridgeway

Joe Tompkins

Managers

Mary Landes

Taia Hadfield

Team Captains

Chase Saviers

Riley Olsen

Noah Reishus-O’Brien

All-Conference Selections

Chase Saviers

Noah Reishus-O’Brien

All-State Selections

Chase Saviers

Record: 14-11

 


 

•Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nolin.ainsworth@juneauempire.com.

 


 

Thunder Mountain High School competes against Ketchikan during the 4A Regional V Basektball Tournament at JDHS on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Ketchikan won 65-44. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School competes against Ketchikan during the 4A Regional V Basektball Tournament at JDHS on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Ketchikan won 65-44. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain’s Chase Saviers shoots over Juneau-Douglas’ Kasey Watts, left, and John Hamrick at JDHS on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. TMHS upset JDHS with a shot at the buzzer 49-48. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain’s Chase Saviers shoots over Juneau-Douglas’ Kasey Watts, left, and John Hamrick at JDHS on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. TMHS upset JDHS with a shot at the buzzer 49-48. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain coaches John Blasco, right, and Joe Tompkins make an appeal to the referees at TMHS on Friday, March 3, 2017. JDHS won 46-40. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain coaches John Blasco, right, and Joe Tompkins make an appeal to the referees at TMHS on Friday, March 3, 2017. JDHS won 46-40. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain’s Josh McAndrews shoots against Juneau-Douglas at TMHS on Friday, March 3, 2017. JDHS won 46-40. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain’s Josh McAndrews shoots against Juneau-Douglas at TMHS on Friday, March 3, 2017. JDHS won 46-40. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School competes against Ketchikan during the 4A Regional V Basektball Tournament at JDHS on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Ketchikan won 65-44. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School competes against Ketchikan during the 4A Regional V Basektball Tournament at JDHS on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Ketchikan won 65-44. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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