Klawock freshman guard Kenai Holien practiced countless free throws for a moment like this one.
Holien and the Lady Chieftains blew a double-digit lead in the second half of the Region V 1A championship game against Kake, but could put all that behind them with a single free throw on Friday night at Thunder Mountain High School.
Holien, who played last season on Klawock as an eighth-grader, was given two foul shots with the game tied at 46 with 3.4 seconds left.
“I just kept saying to myself, ‘I do this everyday, I make them everyday, I practice them everyday,’” Holien said.
Those long hours paid off — the freshman knocked down the first free throw and Kake won 47-46.
“These girls worked their tail off all year long and put the time in, the effort, listened to everything we said,” said Klawock coach Mary Edenshaw, whose team improved to 23-0. “They could recite what we say word for word. They were determined to make this happen.”
Holien finished with 19 points while Kake’s Willow Jackson scored 24.
The Lady Chieftains shot ahead by 13 points in the third quarter, but had no answer for Jackson down the stretch. The junior guard scored 11 straight points at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth that brought the Thunderbirds within 35-33 with six minutes to go. They would eventually take the lead on Felicia Ross-Shaquanie’s layup with about 35 seconds left.
“Kake is a spectacular team,” Edenshaw said. “We knew coming out that we would have to bring that A-plus game to win. We knew what we had to do.”
Holien tied the game with a free throw, and then Kake turned the ball over with 12.5 seconds left, plenty of time for Holien to find a driving lane.
“I was thinking just, ‘Don’t lose this ball, I gotta control this,’” Holien said. “I was trying to draw the foul so I could be shooting (free throws), and I did that. It was really nerve wracking, really, really nerve wracking.”
The two sides came out aggressive from the opening tip. Kake’s nose for loose balls made up for their size disadvantage. The bleachers behind the benches were packed with about 100 supporters, whose boisterous cheers filled the gymnasium on every possession.
The game was tied at 4 in the first quarter before Klawock’s defense spurred a 9-0 run. The Lady Chieftains lured their opponent into several turnovers, which they quickly converted into points.
Klawock widened its lead to 19-8 early in the second, before the Thunderbirds answered quick seven-point surge to come within 19-15. Klawock led 24-20 at halftime.
Kake will play Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against either Hydaburg and Skagway for second place. The girls field started with seven teams, three of which were eliminated from the tournament on Friday.
Hydaburg 37, Angoon 31
Skagway 47, Yakutat 18
Kake 47, Hoonah 21
Hoonah 33, Yakutat 16
Kake 43, Skagway 30
Klawock 35, Hydaburg 25
Hydaburg 32, Hoonah 23
Skagway 40, Angoon 31
Championship: Klawock 47, Kake 46
Hydaburg vs. Skagway (11:15 a.m.)
Runner-up: Kake vs. Winner of Hydaburg vs. Skagway (7:30 p.m.)
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.