Thunder Mountain High School’s Kerra Baxter (#22) tries to penetrate Colony High School’s defense during Saturday’s game at TMHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School’s Kerra Baxter (#22) tries to penetrate Colony High School’s defense during Saturday’s game at TMHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

No. 4 TMHS girls, hit by injuries and illness, can’t keep up with No. 2 Colony

Falcons recover from 71-31 rout Friday, keep Saturday’s game even until fourth quarter in 57-48 loss.

A healthy lesson in what it takes to compete for this year’s state title was absorbed by the Thunder Mountain High School girls basketball team this weekend, as they recovered from a humbling 71-31 loss at home to second-ranked Colony High School on Friday to play an intense rematch where teams exchanged leads throughout most of the game Saturday.

However, while the Falcons had the lead late in the third quarter they were also down several players — three due to illness and three injured during the game — and the Knights took advantage by hitting a series of open 3-point shots to open up a lead that ended in a 57-48 final score.

TMHS Head Coach Andy Lee said his team had a solid game plan going into Saturday to adjust after Friday’s struggles, but there weren’t enough players to sustain an all-out effort for four quarters.

“Our game plan was to shorten the game and to make it a defensive one, and to make them rely on 3-pointers only,” she said. “And at the end we just didn’t have the legs to get out to their shooters.”

Thunder Mountain High School twins Jaya Carandang (#3) and Mika Carandang (#4) try to trap Colony High School’s Alycia Shelley during Saturday’s game at TMHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School twins Jaya Carandang (#3) and Mika Carandang (#4) try to trap Colony High School’s Alycia Shelley during Saturday’s game at TMHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Particularly deadly to the Falcons’ hopes was Colony’s Hallie Clark, a two-time all-state guard, who scored 22 points (including four 3-pointers) on Friday and hit four more 3-pointers while scoring 14 points on Saturday in helping the Knights seal their 11th straight win. Tonya Karpow, a junior forward, also was dominant for Colony with 20 points (including two 3-pointers) on Saturday after scoring six points on Friday.

Leading the way for the Falcons on Saturday were 6’1” twins Kerra and Cailynn Baxter, scoring 15 and 12 points, respectively. Kerra Baxter also led TMHS on Friday with 12 points.

The Falcons were 15-1 overall and ranked fourth in 4A competition entering the pair of games, with their only loss coming against Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé (13-8 overall) on a last-second shot on Feb. 2. But a preview of the challenge TMHS was facing against Colony (now 20-2 overall) occurred on Thursday as the Knights soared to a 73-20 win over the Crimson Bears at JDHS, with an aggressive pressure defense leading to multiple turnovers and mistakes by the home team.

Friday turned into the same kind of game for TMHS, with Colony leading 20-13 after the first quarter and 37-22 at halftime. The second half turned into a rout as the Knights outscored the Falcons 17-3 in the third quarter and 17-6 in the fourth.

Thunder Mountain High School’s Cailynn Baxter (#23) tries to spook Colony High School’s Bella Shelley as she attempts a breakaway shot during Saturday’s game at TMHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School’s Cailynn Baxter (#23) tries to spook Colony High School’s Bella Shelley as she attempts a breakaway shot during Saturday’s game at TMHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Lee said his team was also missing key players who were scratched at the last second from Friday’s game.

“We tried to play them and they just couldn’t,” he said.

Saturday’s game plan was built for the players Lee said he knew would be available, which helped them keep pace with Colony — injuries further depleted the Falcons’ roster. TMHS trailed 12-11 after the first quarter, 26-23 at halftime and took a 38-33 lead with about three minutes left in the third quarter. But the Knights rallied to tie the score 38-38 at the end of the third quarter before going on to dominate the fourth.

“We played a tough zone and we we took good shots,” Lee said. “And we rebounded and we kept the rebounds. Last night we got possession and gave it back — we had a record number of turnovers. Tonight we didn’t give it back.”

Thunder Mountain’s next games are at home against Mt. Edgecumbe High School on Thursday and JDHS on Friday, with the team the playing a rematch against the Crimson Bears on Saturday at JDHS.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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