Stone Morgan, right, makes a pass during boys varsity basketball practice at Thunder Mountain High School on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Stone Morgan, right, makes a pass during boys varsity basketball practice at Thunder Mountain High School on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Falcons head south for ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience

Punahou Invite continues through Monday

The Falcons are spreading their wings halfway across the Pacific Ocean.

The Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball team is playing this week in Honolulu, Hawaii, for the Punahou Invitational. One of 16 teams playing in the 48-game event at Punahou High School, it’s the Falcons second-ever time playing outside of Alaska, and first time playing outside the Pacific Northwest.

“My players are embracing the once-in-a-lifetime experience,” TMHS coach John Blasco said. “Some of them haven’t even been out of the Washington-Alaska area, so for them to get to come all the way to Hawaii to play basketball, they’re definitely embracing that.”

[2019-20 Basketball Preview: Upperclassmen talent galore for Juneau teams]

TMHS, who played Kamehameha Schools Hawaii on Thursday, will face either Punahou or Hamamatsu Tech High School of Japan on Friday. The Falcons are guaranteed to play four games. The tournament wraps up Monday.

The Falcons are one of three teams coming from outside Hawaii or California. The other two are Hamamatsu Tech and Science Hill High School from Johnson City, Tennessee.

“It’s actually a tournament I coached at when I was in Seattle about 13 years ago, and we got the call in August inviting us and felt like it was an incredible opportunity to play in a top tournament,” Blasco said.

The TMHS pep band also made the trip to Hawaii, Blasco said.

“They’re going to not only play for our games, but they’re going to look to play for other teams,” he said.

The Falcons play in their home opener in Juneau at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 9, against Sitka High School.

Lady Falcons to play in Ketchikan tourney

The TMHS girls will play three games at the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic starting Friday. The tournament is hosted by Ketchikan High School, and also includes Franklin (Washington), Craig, Esperanza (California), North Pole, South Anchorage and Eagle River.

The Falcons play against Franklin High School at 9 a.m. Friday.

The program placed fifth in the tournament last year behind Soldotna (champion), Lathrop (runner-up), Ketchikan and Chino (California).

• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or

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