The Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team beat Thunder Mountain High School Thursday morning to earn a shot at Ketchikan for the Region V 4A championship on Friday. Thunder Mountain was knocked out of the tournament with the loss.
Crimson Bears freshman Caitlin Pusich led her team to the 47-37 win with an impressive five 3-pointers.
Commenting earlier this week, JDHS head coach Lesslie Knight remarked that her talented underclassmen looked a bit like a “doe in the headlights” in their first postseason competition, a loss to TMHS. In Thursday’s semifinal win, however, Knight said Pusich and company “settled down a bit.”
Knight said Pusich’s performance came down to defensive schemes.
“One of the things we talked about was she (Pusich) has to work harder to get open. In the zone she gets open easier, if they’re manning us she’s not as good about getting open. Luckily for us they were in a zone and she got some threes off.”
Following Pusich’s team-leading 18 points, JDHS senior Cristina Arehart scored 16 on four field goals and eight free throws. Arehart went to the line 14 times, and TMHS head coach Tanya Nizich felt that was hard to overcome.
“She’s a good free throw shooter. We sent her to the line more than any of the other game, and that hurt us a bit more,” she said.
The game started out in JDHS’ favor as the Crimson Bears were able to hold TMHS standout Ava Tompkins to two points in the first half. JDHS outscored Thunder Mountain 27-12 before halftime and never looked back.
Tompkins had another team-leading performance, scoring 18 on the night. Falcons senior Alondra Echiverri added nine points.
Tompkins put the exclamation point on her prep basketball resume this season by joining two other vaunted TMHS alumni (Janelle Savland and Ashley Young) to become the third Falcon to score over 1,000 career points.
Coach Nizich knows Tompkins has been a special talent.
“It’s a huge accomplishment for a high school athlete. It’s awesome, a super-neat thing. Hopefully we’ll get a plaque to put up in the trophy case for her.”
JDHS will face Ketchikan on Friday at 11:30 a.m. for a shot to go to the March Madness Alaska State High School tournament in Anchorage starting March 24. The Crimson Bears will have to beat Ketchikan twice to secure the state tournament berth.
Kayhi 58, TMHS 42
After a big win against Juneau-Douglas High School on Tuesday, the Thunder Mountain High School girls basketball team fell short against an experienced Ketchikan squad on Wednesday at the Region V tournament in Sitka.
The Falcons fell 58-42 in a game that can best be describe as a tale of two halves. TMHS started the game keeping pace with Kayhi, but faltered in the second half. The Kings held the Falcons scoreless for six minutes in the half, and developed a 20-point lead.
TMHS has galvanized to play their best basketball at the end of the season, but faced a more experienced and deeper Kayhi team in the Region V semifinal. Coach Tanya Nizich expressed pride in her girls’ play.
“The first half was pretty incredibly played by our team, we led and controlled the first half, but in the last minute of the second quarter we threw the ball away twice and before we knew it they were up seven. All in all, I thought we played the very best we could,” Nizich said.
Nizich added that her team loves the competitive atmosphere at regions.
“For whatever reason, we’ve come alive at regions,” she said. “I’m not sure if it’s the atmosphere, or it just truly the last few games where everyone leaves it all out on the court. They’ve just been playing their hearts out and that’s all you can ask for.”
Thunder Mountain was led in scoring by senior Ava Tompkins with 11, freshman Nina Fenumiai with 10, junior Alondra Echiverri with nine, and freshman Cyrene Uddipa, who added six on two 3-pointers.
Ketchikan junior Alexis Biggerstaff led her team with 17, followed by senior Eliah Anderson with 15 and senior Courtney Kemble with 10.
Thunder Mountain controlled the first quarter, as Echiverri led her team with seven in the opening period. Up 15-11 in the second, the Kings buckled down on defense and held the Falcons to eight, prompting a 30-23 lead.
The third quarter was all Kayhi, as Ketchikan held the Falcons scoreless for the first six minutes of the second half and went on a 17-5 run in the period. Up 20, the Kings ran away with the game and never looked back.