Falcons Coach John Blasco, left, celebrates as his team defeats Ketchikan High School on Thursday to advance to the finals of the Region V 4A basketball tournament.

Falcons Coach John Blasco, left, celebrates as his team defeats Ketchikan High School on Thursday to advance to the finals of the Region V 4A basketball tournament.

Huge upset at Region V tournament

When you’re 5-17 on the season and on an eight-game losing streak, people tend to count you out. This thought never occurred to the Thunder Mountain Falcons.

The Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball team toppled the state’s No. 2-ranked Ketchikan at the Region V tournament on Thursday. The 71-68 win marked Alaska high school basketball’s biggest upset of the season as Ketchikan is now out of the running for the Southeast Conference 4A title. The Falcons matched up well with the Kings, and never let their opponents develop more than a four-point lead.

Though the results this year have been rough for the Falcons, TMHS coach John Blasco knew his team had a shot.

“When Ketchikan lost yesterday, I said to my guys: ‘This is better for us, we match up better with them defensively than Juneau Douglas,’” Blasco said. “They’re a lot bigger than us, but they don’t stretch us out as much as JD does, so I thought the match up was OK and we just have to take it one quarter at a time.”

It was Thunder Mountain’s best overall performance this season: eight different scorers got on the board for the Falcons as they shot their best percentage from the field all year. Seniors Moa Maka and Shane Mielke both hit clutch fourth-quarter 3-pointers and senior RJ Manning had two huge back-to-back buckets with less than a minute to go.

Manning and junior guard Chase Saviers led their team with 15 points each. Junior Noah Reishus-O’Brien added 11, while senior Moa Maka added nine. Six of Maka’s points came off of two 3-pointers he hit with just a few minutes left. Blasco said those buckets felt like “must have shots.”

TMHS had to play a phenomenal game to get past Ketchikan, as the Kings offense also played a hero’s game down the stretch. Senior Mo Bullock hit all six of his free throws in the fourth while senior Isaac Johnson — who’s known for his intense play — stole an inbounds pass from Maka with less than a minute to go. Johnson would step just over the line on the play to award the key possession back to the Falcons.

Ketchikan was led in scoring by seniors Jason James with 20, Matt Standley with 18, Mo Bullock with 13 and Isaac Johnson with nine.

While Ketchikan is out of the Region V tournament, they still have a strong chance to go to the state tournament by pulling an at-large bid. At large teams are nominated by their Win Percentage Index (WPI) rankings and Ketchikan trails only Juneau-Douglas in WPI.

TMHS will face their crosstown rivals JDHS at 1:15 p.m. on Friday for the Region V 4A title.


Wednesday’s Game: JDHS 66, Kayhi 61

Two of the highest-ranked teams in the state faced off at the Region V 4A tournament on Wednesday, and the showdown did not disappoint.

The No. 1-ranked Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team lived up to their reputation with a 64-61 win over No. 2 Ketchikan High School. JDHS put Kayhi on their heels early, building a 22-point lead by the third quarter. Kayhi responded with a flurry of fourth-quarter buckets to come within a point in the final minute.

Though JDHS has come close to losing big leads before, head coach Robert Casperson felt this one could be attributed to Ketchikan’s excellent second-half play.

“They were on fire for a stretch in the third quarter, making everything they put up. They’re a really good team, they’re not just going to back down or roll over. They kept coming, they showed their competitive spirit.”

JDHS senior Kaleb Tompkins led all scorers with 24 points, followed by senior Treyson Ramos with 11. Seniors Guy Bean and Molo Maka added 10 and eight, respectively.

Ketchikan was led in defeat by senior Isaac Johnson with 18, senior Mo Bullock with 12 and senior Jason James with 11.

JDHS played a consistent game offensively, scoring 14 and 20 in the first and second periods, and 14 and 18 in the third and fourth. Ketchikan’s offense took all game to warm up, as they scored eight in the first, 11 in the second, and 18 and 24 in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.

Ketchikan started the fourth quarter at an 11-point deficit, but rallied late to tie the game at 49-49 with four minutes to go. JDHS’ Kaleb Tompkins hit a clutch and-one bucket with 2:16 left and then went to the line to hit two more on their next possession to put JDHS up 58-53 with less than a minute to go. Ketchikan was forced to foul to preserve the clock and JDHS hit their free throws down the stretch to seal the game with a three-point advantage.