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The Petersburg and Wrangell high school boys basketball teams showcased one of the oldest rivalries in Southeast Alaska in the Region V 2A/4A Basketball Tournament on Wednesday at Thunder Mountain High School in Juneau.
The Vikings topped the Wolves 32-31 this go-around in a matchup of schools that goes back as far as the turn of the century.
Both teams played with a physical presence on the defensive end and a patient look at the hoop offensively.
“I think every time that we battled it has kind of been like this,” Wrangell coach Cody Angerman said. “Our kids want to come out and compete every night and fight and we work hard to do that, to put ourselves in a position to win. That’s all we can ask for. I have a bunch of kids that are cross country state champs and wrestling state champs and are just real competitors. I think that is what it is all about. Unfortunately we came up a little short on this one so we have a little bit of work to do.”
Petersburg junior Rik Cumps opened the game with a shot deep past the arch and Wrangell sophomore answered with a shorter jumper. The Wolves went on 9-3 run for an 11-6 lead as the first quarter end neared but Cumps beat the buzzer with another deep ball to trail 11-9.
With only two fouls called in the first quarter the teams expected, and got, a similar whistle in the second period.
Cumps opened the stanza with a deep three for Petersburg and senior Devlyn Campbell answered for Wrangell.
Petersburg closed the quarter with four rebounds by senior Jack Engell resulting in a 17 on the Vikings scoreboard while senior Ethan Blatchley banged inside for a rebound and a foul shot for a 14 on the Wolves scoreboard.
“That was fun,” Blatchley said. “It is always better than games where every little ticky-tack foul is called. If you play with every tick-tack time that is a lot of break time and nothing happens. Games like tonight are more fun. You have to play through the aggressiveness… you have to play through some physicality. We have always played against them… they are Petersburg Vikings, I mean, we have gone year for year back and forth with them. They are good.”
The teams exchanged the lead seven times in the third period with Wrangell taking a 27-26 lead as the quarter ended.
“Our kids were kind of, obviously, wound up,” Petersburg coach Rick Brock said. “I don’t think we played with a lot of composure so I guess was trying to be a little bit more composed on the sideline, because the strategy comes down to the last couple of minutes, every possession is going to matter… every time we play it doesn’t matter where the scenario is, it is going to be a fight to the end. And rightfully so, our kids on both sides play extremely hard and they are going to do everything they can.”
Petersburg junior Hunter Conn opened the final eight minutes with a shot past the arch and one just on the line for a 31-27 lead.
Blatchley answered for Wrangell but the Wolves would go on a cold spell until one minute remained to play.
Engell corralled four boards and had two steals down the stretch including a key outlet pass to Cumps who fed senior Kyle Biggers inside for a foul. Biggers would make one of two for a 32-29 lead with 22 seconds remaining.
“I really just wanted to get to the championship game,” Engell said. “I really want to cut down the net on Saturday so that’s what I was going for. The refs were letting us play, which is nice because on both of our homecoming series at home and in Wrangell the refs were kind of dictating play… so it was nice they let us play our own game.”
Wrangell missed a deep shot past the arch with nine seconds remaining but Petersburg turned the ball over giving the Wolves another try.
Wrangell took an inside score at the buzzer and Petersburg held on for another game of the ages between the two schools.
“And it is nice to be a part of it,” Engell said. “I’m glad I got to do it one more time.”
Cumps led Petersburg with 10 points, Conn added eight, Engell six, Biggers five, junior Kieran Cabral two and senior Owen Anderson one.
The Vikings hit 6-9 at the free throw line, the Wolves 5-8.
Campbell and Blatchley led Wrangell with nine points apiece, sophomore Daniel Harrison added six, sophomore Kyan Stead five and senior Jacen Hay two.
Petersburg advances to play Friday at 4:45 p.m. against the winner of Thursday’s Metlakatla/Haines contest.
Wrangell plays an elimination game against Craig at 4:45 p.m. Thursday.