Player of the Game selection Thomas Baxter scored 22 points to lead the Thunder Mountain High School Falcons boys basketball team to a 60-54 semifinal win over host South Anchorage High School in the Wolverine Classic Basketball Tournament on Friday.
“We executed pretty well on both ends of the floor,” Thunder Mountain coach John Blasco said. “South presented quite a few challenges. They have a big man that can shoot threes. They have multiple guys that can post up down low with good athleticism, and a point guard with a really fast release. They created some defensive challenges for us as a whole and I thought we executed defensively to make it difficult on them to utilize their weapons.”
The Falcons responded to a first-quarter shutdown by the South defense on senior Samual Lockhart with a strong inside stanza of seven points by senior James Polasky, one shot past the arc, and another seven from senior Baxter, of which two shots were buried past the arc, and gave TMHS a 15-12 advantage.
The athletic South defense continued to press TMHS shooters in the second quarter and sophomore Joren Gasga gave the Falcons needed strength from deep with two shots past the arc to maintain momentum and energy. Polasky stepped out again for a long jumper and another six points, and Baxter buried another basket to open a 29-25 lead at the half.
“They (South) face-guarded Sam (Lockhart) in the first half and James (Polasky) had 14 points,” Blasco said. “In the second half South had more of a focus on James, which allowed us to get Sam open more.”
Lockhart found openings in the third stanza to bury two shots past the arc and another closer in and Baxter turned his driving game up a notch to be fouled on multiple shots, burying 6-6 from the charity stripe and two jumpers from the field, one from past the arc for a 48-40 advantage with eight minutes remaining to play.
The Falcons received baskets from senior Kasen Ludeman, Lockhart, Polasky and Baxter in the fourth quarter to hold off South, and their senior Player of the Game selection Larenz Miller and classmate JP Castillo, for the win.
“We like having Lance (senior Lance Nierra) coming off the bench,” Blasco said of the Falcons’ team chemistry. “He’s a very fast defender. Then we have guards and players that come off the bench and step right into their role within the rotation.”
Baxter led the Falcons with 22 points, Polasky added 18, Lockhart 12, Gasga 6 and Ludeman two.
TMHS hit 12-20 from the charity stripe, SAHS 10-14.
Castillo led the Wolverines with 15 points, Miller 14, junior Caleb Doerr 10, junior Cole Yarrington six, senior Tanner Smith four, junior Aiden Agnew three and senior Fafo LeFano two.
The Falcons will play Eagle River at 4:30 p.m. today for the championship. The action can be seen live on the South Anchorage High School YouTube channel or at NFHSnetwork.com.
Eagle River defeated Ketchikan 60-54 on Friday.
“Eagle River presses the whole game,” Blasco said. “It is going to be fun.”