The Thunder Mountain High School Falcons girls basketball team comes onto the floor Saturday. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

The Thunder Mountain High School Falcons girls basketball team comes onto the floor Saturday. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Falcons girls soar over North Pole in final home court game at Thunder Mountain High School

Team at top of conference entering playoffs for last time, as merger with JDHS set for next year.

With 12 seconds remaining in her final career home court game, Thunder Mountain High School senior Jenna Dobson made two free throws for a 36-31 win over the visiting North Pole Patriots and the last points that will be scored for the Falcons program on their home floor.

Thunder Mountain High School senior Jenna Dobson (5) hits the final home court point for the Falcons on Saturday in their 36-31 win over North Pole. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School senior Jenna Dobson (5) hits the final home court point for the Falcons on Saturday in their 36-31 win over North Pole. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

“I didn’t even think about that,” Dobson said of the historic final points. “I guess that is a pretty big honor. I am really proud of my team tonight.”

Local students in grades 9-12 will be attending Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé starting next year under a consolidation plan approved by the Juneau Board of Education to cope with a budget crisis. TMHS will house students in grades 7-8 and the HomeBRIDGE program.

In their final game at the Thunderdome, playing without all-state twin juniors Cailynn and Kerra Baxter due to a family matter, the Falcons relied on multiple substitutions among 11 players.

“We didn’t have the Baxters. They are kind of our scoring machines, so this just shows how well-rounded the team is and how everyone on our team can contribute,” Dobson said. “We were still able to pull out this win without them being here, and we love our Falcons. I am really happy we won our last game.”

Thunder Mountain High School senior girls basketball players were honored on Saturday. They are, from left, Jaya Carandang (3), Mikah Carandang (4), Ashlyn Gates (2), Kara Strong (33), Jenna Dobson (5), Olivia Mills (52), Makaley Johnson (55), Kaidree Hartman (24) and Ronja Sieber (42). (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School senior girls basketball players were honored on Saturday. They are, from left, Jaya Carandang (3), Mikah Carandang (4), Ashlyn Gates (2), Kara Strong (33), Jenna Dobson (5), Olivia Mills (52), Makaley Johnson (55), Kaidree Hartman (24) and Ronja Sieber (42). (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Just 10 seconds earlier, senior Jaya Carandang floated a running shot in close to give TMHS a 34-28 advantage. It was the last field goal for the Falcons. She also scored the first basket of the game.

“I didn’t even know,” Carandang said after the game. “I’m pretty sad but it is a memorable thing. That’s pretty great. That last shot I knew I was going to make it because it was a good pass. I knew I had to get back on defense after that.”

The pass to Carandang came from senior twin sister, Mikah, her fifth assist of the night.

“I was hoping she would catch it and make it,” M. Carandang said. “I was like, ‘Let’s go!’ That was the end, right there. I knew we were going to win.”

“We’ve just got that chemistry,” J. Carandang said. “Even though we have our differences a little bit on the court, she’s a lefty, I’m a righty, we still know each other. We can just really trust each other on the court.”

Thunder Mountain High School senior Kara Strong (33) looks to score against North Pole’s Taimone Skipps (41) and Madi Glynn (10) during the Falcons 36-31 win over the Patriots Saturday at the Thunderdome. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School senior Kara Strong (33) looks to score against North Pole’s Taimone Skipps (41) and Madi Glynn (10) during the Falcons 36-31 win over the Patriots Saturday at the Thunderdome. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

TMHS senior Kara Strong filled inside for the absent Baxter twins and grabbed key rebounds. None was bigger than a defensive board with the Falcons leading 30-28 at the 2:49 mark of the fourth quarter and then an offensive board at 2:21 that resulted in Strong making one of two free throws.

“The Baxters are some of the best players in the state,” Strong said. “So it is a big role to fill, but I think as a team we did a really good job, collectively, to score and put points on the board as a team and just working off each other. It is really cool to be on the court during those close game situations like that. Just don’t put any pressure on yourself. I missed one of them so obviously I did put a little too much pressure on myself, but I think it is just really fun.”

TMHS led 9-7 after the first quarter with baskets coming from the Carandangs and classmate Ashlyn Gates notching a free throw, and 15-12 at the half with senior Kaidree Hartman, sophomore Cambry Lockhart and freshman Bergen Erickson finding the net.

“It means so much because we have all been playing together for so long,” Gates, the team captain, said. “I guess I am not emotional right now because we have a long road ahead of us at state and I know we are going to compete. The team just means so much to me and we have such a special bond and I just love everybody. I’m so sad this is almost over but so happy that I got to spend my years at TM with this team. In the locker room we had a talk together and we knew we were going to win when we walked out here because everybody wanted it so badly.”

Thunder Mountain High School’s Mikah Carandang is fouled by North Pole’s Jade Skipps. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School’s Mikah Carandang is fouled by North Pole’s Jade Skipps. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Hartman, Dobson and Lockhart pushed the Falcons to a 23-20 advantage midway through the third quarter and senior Olivia Mills, getting some varsity minutes, was fouled on a rebound and made a free throw that ignited the Falcons bench and the crowd to close out the stanza 24-20.

A blocked shot by Gates led to a shot past the arc by Erickson to start the final stanza. Free throws by J. Carandang and Dobson kept the advantage and offset two deep shots by North Pole’s Taimone Skipps that closed the score to 30-27.

Then Strong stepped in to control the boards and Gates, Dobson, Lockhart, Erickson, Hartman and the Carandangs shared final minutes on the court to secure the win.

J. Carandang and Dobson led the Falcons with eight points apiece, Hartman and Erickson five apiece, Lockhart four, M. Carandang three and Gates, Strong and Mills one each.

TMHS hit 14-26 at the charity stripe, North Pole 3-4.

Thunder Mountain High School senior Ashlyn Gates dribbles past North Pole’s Madi Glynn. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School senior Ashlyn Gates dribbles past North Pole’s Madi Glynn. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Tiahna Guzman and Jade Skipps led the Patriots with eight apiece, T. Skipps seven, Taylor Croan four, and Madi Glynn and Alyssa Pearson two apiece.

“We just want to stay humble,” M. Carandang said. “Play our game all the time, one game at a time is what it is. Going into regions we will still be humble, rebound a lot more is what we always emphasize on, just play our game and be aggressive.”

TMHS also defeated the Patriots 52-48 on Friday, with C. Baxter scoring 15 and K. Baxter 14.

The Falcons did not lead in that game until the fourth quarter. They managed just a single field goal in the first quarter by Strong, and the Baxters had five free throws for an 8-8 tie. North Pole led 20-18 at the half and the game was tied 32-32 heading into the final stanza.

“The key was that we have established ourselves as a really good defensive team,” TMHS coach Andy Lee said. “Until our offense got going our defense was keeping us in the game.”

North Pole’s Jade Skipps and Thunder Mountain High School sophomore Cambry Lockhart go for a ball. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

North Pole’s Jade Skipps and Thunder Mountain High School sophomore Cambry Lockhart go for a ball. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Gates and M. Carandang hit past the arc in the final stanza, Dobson found a bucket, C. Baxter hit inside three times and added a free throw and K. Baxter scored twice and added a free throw to offset four deep shots by the visitors, three from T. Skipps.

J. Carandang finished with six points, Gates five, M. Carandang four and Lockhart, Dobson, Hartman and Strong two each.

The Falcons hit 12-26 from the charity stripe, the Patriots 6-11.

T. Skipps led North Pole with 13, J. Skipps 10, T. Guzman nine, Glynn five, Pearson four, Croan three, and Miyah Guzman and Katie Kimmel two apiece.

“It definitely is a good series of games for us,” North Pole coach Robyn Myrum said. “We want to play against tough teams, we want to be one of the top teams so that is how you’ve got to play. It’s a good challenge for us and I feel like our kids have done good and been able to execute on things and run through things and get stronger before we go into our regionals.”

Thunder Mountain High School senior Olivia Mills looks to shoot against North Pole. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School senior Olivia Mills looks to shoot against North Pole. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

The series had no effect on the Region V standings. TMHS (19-3 overall, 7-1 Southeast Conference) will be the No. 1 seed at Mt. Edgecumbe’s B.J. McGillis Gymnasium, playing at 3 p.m. Wednesday against the winner of Tuesday’s matchup between Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé (13-10 OA, 5-3 SE) and Ketchikan (5-18 OA, 0-8 SE).

“You want to go to regionals on an up note,” Lee said on Saturday. “There is nothing better than having two all-state players absent and still winning against a very good team. We’re ready.”

The Lady Falcons have the luxury of being among the top four schools in the Alaska School Activities Association’s ranking percentage index (RPI) for the state championships March 20-23 in Anchorage. Even a disastrous Region V showing next weekend would not hurt their advancing to state.

“We don’t talk about that part,” Lee said. “They stay focused because the rivalry drives it. They know it is JD or Ketchikan. If it was a 16-team conference it might be difficult. Their emotions have been up and down all week because of the closure thing. I walk into practice and I know what type of conversations have taken place in the cafeteria or the hallway because they are either optimistic or they are depressed. It is a bi-polar week.”

Thunder Mountain High School senior Kaidree Hartman gets past North Poles’ Tiahna Guzman. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School senior Kaidree Hartman gets past North Poles’ Tiahna Guzman. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

After the game TMHS honored girls basketball seniors Gates, J. Carandang, M. Carandang, Dobson, Hartman, Strong, Mills, Ronja Sieber and Makaley Johnson; cheerleaders Katelyn Kohuth and Rylynn Martin; dance team members Brenna Reynolds, Molly Johnson and Sophia Owen; and pep band members Alli Frazier Beck Schnieder, Cameron Brown, Connor Greene, Corbin Corsoin, Elijah Harvey, Jake White, Justin Scussel, Luke Fergusson, Mackenzie Lam, Robert Zukas, Roland Peterson, Ronja Sieber, Sariah Smith and Sydney Bennett. Senior boys basketball players Lance Nierra, Jace Ribao, TJ Guevarra, Kasen Ludeman, Samuel Lockhart, Anthony Garcia, Krishna Sanguni, Harbor Thomas, James Polasky and Thomas Baxter were honored last week.

“This is my first four-year group,” Lee said. “There was a group before them that established the reputation for how hard we play and for being a welcoming team community…the foundation goes all the way back to our first year… so this year’s seniors will be a part of the two best records in the school’s history, two back-to-back conference championships, trying for a second regional championship but more than that, for them, if you look at the big picture they have been a part of the triple crown — softball, volleyball, basketball regional championships. They have established a level of play here that is impactful on a statewide level. We have six, three-sport athletes in that group of eight. For me it is more emotional than usual because we have the potential of the school closure, it’s senior night, and we were without the Baxters tonight and North Pole played us tough last night with them.”

Thunder Mountain High School senior dance members Sophia Owen, Brenna Reynolds and Molly Johnson perform during Saturday’s game against North Pole. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School senior dance members Sophia Owen, Brenna Reynolds and Molly Johnson perform during Saturday’s game against North Pole. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School senior cheerleader Katelyn Kohuth during Saturday’s game against North Pole. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School senior cheerleader Katelyn Kohuth during Saturday’s game against North Pole. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School seniors Mikah Carandang, left, and Jaya Carandang, right, battle for a loose ball with North Pole’s Tiahna Guzman during the Falcons 36-31 win over the Patriots on Saturday at the Thunderdome. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School seniors Mikah Carandang, left, and Jaya Carandang, right, battle for a loose ball with North Pole’s Tiahna Guzman during the Falcons 36-31 win over the Patriots on Saturday at the Thunderdome. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School’s Jaya Carandang shoots over North Pole’s Jade Skipps. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School’s Jaya Carandang shoots over North Pole’s Jade Skipps. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School pep band senior Jake White, at right, stands with parents Steve and Kerri during Saturday Falcons senior night honors. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School pep band senior Jake White, at right, stands with parents Steve and Kerri during Saturday Falcons senior night honors. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

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