It took most of the second half, but the East Anchorage High School girls finally learned their lesson.
After giving up four 3-pointers to Juneau-Douglas senior Caitlin Pusich in the third and fourth quarters, the Thunderbirds clamped down on the 5-foot-10-inch shooting guard on a key possession that lead to a 57-55 win in Princess Cruises Capital City Classic championship game at JDHS on Saturday night. The Thunderbirds won the Juneau tournament last season as well.
“I’m glad that my girls fought, and that’s what we’re going to have to do every game, we’re going to have to fight for every game,” East coach Laura Ingham said. “There’s nothing that’s going to be easy for us.”
Pusich finished with 23 points, Skylar Hickok had nine and Kiana Potter had seven for Juneau.
“We had some mental breakdowns throughout the game,” JDHS coach Steve Potter said. “We haven’t given up a run-out layup all year and we gave up several. We have pretty firm rules about defensively how that should never happen but for whatever reason people didn’t follow the rules (or) we were confused on who we had.
“It’s our first real pressure game, and for some of those kids, it’s the first time they’ve gotten to play in a pressure situation.”
JDHS won its previous four games by 15 or more points.
Fua Filoialii led East with 15 points, Skye Miller scored 12 points and Kimora Nicdao scored eight points.
Down three points with 23 seconds left, JDHS inbounded the ball on its own baseline with a chance to send the game into overtime.
Pusich passed the ball in to Potter and tried to spring herself free, running clockwise along the baseline and around to the top of the key, but Filoialii stayed with her every step of the way, keeping her from getting the ball. After a JDHS miss, Filoialii iced the game with a layup on the other end.
The game seemed to be over with three minutes left. After leading by four, the Thunderbirds quickly shot ahead by nine points on baskets by Miller and Silika Taualii.
But a Pusich 3-pointer sparked a 8-2 run, bringing the Crimson Bears within 50-47 with just over a minute left. Filoialii found a cutting Taualii for a tough layup, and when Pusich made another 3-pointer with 55 seconds left, the Thunderbirds went to Taualii for another layup.
“I was just trusting my teammates. I knew that they would see me and I had my hand up,” Taualii said.
Potter made two free throws on one end while Filoialii missed two on the other end to set up the fateful play.
“I thought we played pretty hard and we certainly didn’t quit,” coach Potter said. “We just have to be smarter and not give up easy opportunities. You play a good team and you give them easy buckets, you can’t expect to win.”
JDHS closed the first half on a 6-0 run but still trailed 19-18. The Crimson Bears took a brief lead in the third quarter before falling behind 36-30 to start the fourth.
2018 Princess Cruises Capital City Classic Awards
Most Valuable Player — Skye Miller (East)
All Tournament Team — Jordan Ahgeak (Barrow); Katelyn Kaleak (Barrow); Jayla Jordan (East); Fua Filoialii (East); Alxyn Bohulano (Juneau-Douglas); Caitlin Pusich (Juneau-Douglas)
3-point champion — Skye Miller (East)
Free throw champion — Jordan Ahgeak (Barrow)
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.