The Thunder Mountain High School girls basketball team pulled a rare first-quarter stunt in their season opener against North Pole.
With about two minutes left in the frame on Thursday night at TMHS, coach Chandler Christensen emptied her bench. It was the right move to make — her team had already built a 20-point lead and showed no signs of slowing down. Thunder Mountain went on to win 57-39, marking their second win in as many years over the Interior school. TMHS beat North Pole 49-45 on the road last December.
Senior Charlee Lewis led the Falcons with 12 points on 6 of 8 foul shooting. Lewis’ two free throws started a 27-1 first-quarter onslaught which saw the Patriots turn the ball over on almost every possession.
“I turned to (assistant coach) Arnold (Ibias) at the end of the first quarter and said, ‘That might be more points than we scored in the first game last season,’” Christensen said. “What we’re looking to see now moving forward is, we’ve got to keep the intensity up even when we take the (full-court) press off. We took the press off, we stopped looking to push the ball up.”
Thunder Mountain swarmed North Pole’s guards the minute they took the ball out of bounds. When North Pole senior Megan Grant and others tried to pass the ball out of trouble, it would be quickly intercepted and taken back the other way.
“We didn’t expect too much pressure, so we were a little rattled,” Grant said. “We weren’t coming to the ball as we should.”
Lewis finished the first quarter with nine points and Nina Fenumiai added eight. Fenumiai got her own rebound and put the team up 18-0 midway through the quarter, prompting North Pole coach Robert Borda to call timeout. Freshman Maryn Long broke the Patriots’ scoring drought with a free throw shortly thereafter.
“We just tried to keep thinking about the defense, just keep trying to get steals,” Lewis said. “We didn’t really think of the score until we sat down at the first timeout.”
Thunder Mountain relaxed its full-court press late in the second quarter, and led 35-11 at halftime.
Junior Breeauna O’Rear converted the Patriots’ first field goal with 4:30 left in the second quarter. Prior to that point, all of North Pole’s points were off free throws.
Freshman Claire Richmond scored all of her 17 points in the second half for the Patriots. O’Rear finished with 16 points.
The TMHS girls and boys teams now hit the road for nonconference games against Sitka. The girls team was 0-2 against the Lady Wolves last season, losing by double digits both times, while the boys team went 1-0.
The TMHS girls play at home next Jan. 11-12 against Colony.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.