Juneau-Douglas High School senior Krishant Samtani’s quiet demeanor and voracious work ethic earned him the nickname “silent assassin.”
He played one on Thursday in what could have been his last high school basketball game.
The 5-foot-10-inch guard scored a career-high 23 points — including 15 in a seesaw fourth quarter — to lift the Crimson Bears to a 60-55 victory over Thunder Mountain in the Region V Class 4A semifinals. JDHS moves on to face Ketchikan on Friday at 1:15 p.m. at the B.J. McGillis Gymnasium at Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka. They’ll have to win two in a row over the Kings, the No. 1 seed and only remaining undefeated team in the tournament.
“It’s probably one of the best moments of my life as of right now,” Samtani said. “Speechless.”
Senior Philip Gonzales had 15 points and sophomore Brock McCormick had seven points in the win.
Meki Toutaiolepo scored 15 points as the high-point man for the Falcons. Older brother Puna finished with 12 points and Brady Carandang added nine.
“It’s not the way we wanted this season to end,” TMHS coach John Blasco said. “It hurts because you work so hard with these guys for four months and you really form those relationships and you want to see them be successful. They can hold their heads up high because they know that their family and their friends and their coaches are all very proud of them.”
Thunder Mountain, which trailed 21-19 at halftime, had JDHS on the ropes in the fourth quarter. The Falcons went up by five points on back-to-back 3-pointers by Oliver Mendoza and Carandang early on. The lead was 46-41 after a Meki Toutaiolepo three-point play with four minutes left.
But then it was Samtani’s time to shine.
The shooting guard’s 3-pointer put his team ahead 50-49 lead with 2:30 left.
Then, after the Crimson Bears lost the lead on a Brysen Echiverri triple, Samtani answered again, hitting another 3-pointer, his fourth of the game. Meki Toutaiolepo completed a go-ahead putback on the other end, but just like its previous two possessions, JDHS let it fly from deep.
This time it was sophomore McCormick triggering. McCormick’s straightaway 3-pointer took back the lead, 56-54, with just 40 seconds remaining.
The Crimson Bears’ defense and four late free throws would make the lead stand.
“Late in the game in the fourth quarter during one of the timeouts we talked about believing each other and believing in the defense to get one stop,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “We came out and got that stop and Thunder Mountain had to foul us and we made the free throws. It was really nice to see us execute late in the game the things we talked about.”
It’s the third consecutive time JDHS has eliminated TMHS on Thursday of the Region V Tournament. In all three years the Crimson Bears strung three wins in a row to be the last team standing in the region. In two of the three years, the Falcons’ first-round win ended up being a factor in their demise, according to Blasco. TMHS defeated JDHS 52-51 on Tuesday.
A first-round win and second-round loss means a team will play three games in roughly a 36-hour span.
“There’s no practice, there’s no roadtrip that you can prep for the mental and physical exhaustion and expectations that this tournament requires,” Blasco said. “We had a couple mistakes down the stretch that costs us the game.”
TMHS says goodbye to seniors Hansel Hinckle, Jonathan Stephens, Bernard Yadao, Connor Guizio, Puna Toutaiolepo and Andrew Dilley.
“This is a group that loves each other,” Blasco said. “There’s a good strong bond with them and that starts with the seniors on down.”
JDHS 7 14 15 16 — 60: Samtani 23, Gonzales 15, McCormick 7, Yadao 6, Bryant 4, McCurley 2, Bryant 2, Kriegmont 1.
TMHS 7 12 18 18 — 55: M. Toutaiolepo 15, M. Toutaiolepo 12, Carandang 9, Mendoza 6, Echiverri 5, Hinckle 4, Jenkins 4.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.