Thunder Mountain’s coach John Blasco encourages his team during a timeout against Ketchikan at TMHS on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. Ketchikan won 57-31.

Thunder Mountain’s coach John Blasco encourages his team during a timeout against Ketchikan at TMHS on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. Ketchikan won 57-31.

Season in Review: Thunder Mountain boys and girls basketball

Boys basketball

All signs pointed to this year being a “rebuilding year” for the Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball team. Coach John Blasco was tasked with filling nine roster spots vacated by the exceedingly large 2017 senior class. That meant over half of his team would be first-year varsity players.

And yet, thanks in part to the resurgence of Luke Clark and excellent team defense, the team finished atop the conference standings. TMHS swept Juneau-Douglas High School in January and won five of its eight games in February.

The season didn’t end on a high note, however. After earning the first-round bye in the Region V tournament, the team lost back-to-back games that eliminated them from the tournament.

Still, winning over half its game this season exceeded many people’s expectations. With a young nucleus, it shouldn’t be long before this program cuts down the nets in Southeast.

Q&A with Coach Blasco

What were the biggest challenges the team faced this season?

The biggest challenges the team faced this season was losing 85 percent of our scoring from the previous season. Also, managing and incorporating Luke Clark’s health so he could survive the entire season: last two seasons he has not been able to finish the year due to knee injuries. Also, playing 17 of regular season games on the road and blending a new roster of sophomores to seniors, with limited returning experience and leadership.

What’s the most memorable moment from this season?

Senior night, when the team bounced back from the worst offensive performance of the season to win regular season conference.

What can people expect next year out of the team?

People can expect a hard-working, energetic, young returning group ready to prove themselves.

Coach’s comments on seniors

Bobby Cox — More known for his baseball and wrestling ability, I recruited Bobby to come play basketball this season because I knew we were lacking size inside. Bobby brought more to the team than I ever imagined, with his selflessness, humor and commitment to the team.

Steven Rosales — Steven rejoined the team in January after spending time focusing on school and work. The team was excited to welcome him back. Steven brought a high-level work ethic to practice every day and a calming presence to the team.

Owen Mendoza — Owen was on varsity for two years, and in the program for four. Owen stepped up big this year, became that reliable player you could count on day in and day out to take care of business. He served as an undersized forward who was second on the team in rebounding.

Josh McAndrews — Josh was on varsity for three years, and in the program for four. He may be one of the quietest players I’ve ever coached, but always competed and pushed his teammates to get better. Probably the hardest thing about coaching Josh was getting him to recognize his ability and potential. Josh’s growth over the last two years has been substantial.

Luke Clark — Luke was on varsity for three years, and in the program for four. Most people don’t realize he has been on varsity the last two years because of an ailing knee injury cutting his seasons short. I am very thankful that Luke’s knee survived his senior year. Luke committed himself to being an offensive leader for the team and rightfully earned all-conference honors this season.

Roy Tupou — Roy was on varsity for two years, and in the program for four. The graduation of Roy ends a truly special era for the program. Following his older brothers Vili, Josh, and Garth, Roy is the last Tupou brother, and next season will be the first time in school history we haven’t had a Tupou brother in the program. Roy, like his brothers, brought great leadership and toughness to the team. Roy never settled for average, always pushed himself and teammates to be better.

Mary Landes — Mary has been the varsity manager for four years. She is incredibly organized and efficient and always came to practice with a smile. Having her around was invaluable the last four years. Mary is an impressive individual, in addition to being the basketball manager Mary is a 4.0 student, member of National honors society, member of Roteract, and played varsity volleyball and track.

Girls basketball

It’s tempting to shrug off the fact this year’s Thunder Mountain High School girls basketball team doubled its season win total from last year. After all, the Lady Falcons only won two games last year.

However, unlike last season, one of the team’s wins this year was against a conference opponent. And that means much more than defeating a Fairbanks school (the team had previously beaten North Pole, Hutchinson and Monroe Catholic).

After enduring a brutal 12-game losing streak, TMHS summoned the strength to knock off Juneau-Douglas High School in the final regular season game.

Less than a week later, the team was two plays away from eliminating the Crimson Bears from the Region V tournament.

There’s no question TMHS is gaining ground on JDHS and Ketchikan. How quickly? That remains to be seen.

Q&A with Coach Christensen

What were the biggest challenges the team faced this season?

I think the biggest challenge we faced this season was how young we were. We had a lot of players that had to step up and contribute who had little to none varsity experience. I think the girls handled this very well and I am excited to see what they can bring next year with another year under their belts.

What’s the most memorable moment from this season?

No surprise here — when we beat JD at their place on their senior night. Seeing the girls finally put a full 32 minutes together and believe in each other to pull out the win was incredible.

What can people expect next year out of the team?

We have a lot of experienced returners and are looking at adding some talented eighth graders as well. People can expect our team to be more competitive in games and put some pressure on Ketchikan and JD for the Region V title.

Coach’s comments on seniors

Lezille Sagrado — We are very fortunate that Lezille moved to Juneau and decided to play basketball this year. She was a pleasure to coach and always worked hard.

Andee Johnson — Andee had a fantastic year this year and we are very sad to see her go. She grew so much as a person and as a player and I am excited to see where the future takes her.

Cyrene Uddipa — Unfortunately, Cyrene didn’t get to finish out the season with us, but she had a great career at Thunder Mountain and was an amazing leader on the court. She was a very hard worker and was always doing her best to get better.


• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com.


ABOVE: Thunder Mountain’s Luke Clark shoots over Ketchikan’s Cody Kremble, left, and Kristian Pihl at TMHS on Feb. 23. Next week, Clark will play in the AABC (Alaska Association of Basketball Coaches) Senior All-Star game in Anchorage. RIGHT: Thunder Mountain’s Cyrene Uddipa, right, chases the ball against Juneau-Douglas’ Kiana Potter during their game at TMHS on Jan. 5. JDHS won 53-33. Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File

ABOVE: Thunder Mountain’s Luke Clark shoots over Ketchikan’s Cody Kremble, left, and Kristian Pihl at TMHS on Feb. 23. Next week, Clark will play in the AABC (Alaska Association of Basketball Coaches) Senior All-Star game in Anchorage. RIGHT: Thunder Mountain’s Cyrene Uddipa, right, chases the ball against Juneau-Douglas’ Kiana Potter during their game at TMHS on Jan. 5. JDHS won 53-33. Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File

Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File Thunder Mountain’s Cyrene Uddipa, right, chases the ball against Juneau-Douglas’ Kiana Potter during their game at TMHS on Jan. 5. JDHS won 53-33.

Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File Thunder Mountain’s Cyrene Uddipa, right, chases the ball against Juneau-Douglas’ Kiana Potter during their game at TMHS on Jan. 5. JDHS won 53-33.

More in Sports

Juneau’s PJ Foy, shown winning the 2023 100 yard butterfly in 48.27 for Thunder Mountain High School during the ASAA state championships at the Dimond Park Aquatics Center on Nov. 4, 2023, qualified for the 2024 June Olympic Team Trials by swimming a 100 long course meters butterfly in a personal best 53.44 on March 16, 2024, at the Speedo Sectionals in Federal Way, Washington. (Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire file photo)
Alaskans secure spots at 2024 Olympics; Juneau swimmer PJ Foy will try for his spot on Friday

TMHS graduate seeking to qualify in 100-meter butterfly at U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

At least one female wood duck has invented a novel feeding technique. (Photo by Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Wood ducks, redstarts, yellowlegs and flowers

Mid-June, and a few days ago we saw a wood duck with… Continue reading

Competitors in the AlaskAcross 2024 race prepare to depart from Eagle Summit at 10 a.m. on June 8, 2024. From left are Bruno Grunau, Mark Ross, Forest Wagner, Mike Fisher, Sarah Hurkett, Clinton Brown, Tracie Curry and Curtis Henry. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Journey through a sub-Arctic summer night

“You guys are the result of thousands of years of selection,” Fran… Continue reading

Barn swallows firmly attach their nests to walls, so they support the weight of nestlings and visiting adults.  (Photo by Bob Amrstrong)
On the Trails: Spring to summer

Spring temperatures were cool this year, but the lengthening days gave birds… Continue reading

In the spirit of Dolly Parton’s country music roots, race participant Mendenhall River Community School Principal Eric Filardi runs in costume with young Lucy Vogel wearing heart-shaped sunglasses as they enjoy the sunny Saturday weather on the Airport Dike Trail race course. About 85 runners participated, many wearing pearls and pink hats provided at the starting tent. (Laurie Craig / Juneau Empire)
Busting out the pink and pearls at the first Dolly Dash

Dolly Parton-inspired fun run raises funds for free books for kids.

People often use sea ice, as seen here off Alaska’s northern coast outside the town of Utqiagvik, for travelling. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Did sea ice help populate the Americas?

Human footprints preserved in mud at White Sands National Park in New… Continue reading

A cruise ship makes its way through early morning fog last summer. The passengers who have been arriving lately have not been experiencing similar tranquility. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Racing the weather

Daylight is unstoppable this time of year. Not like up in the… Continue reading

Brown-headed cowbirds are professional egg-dumpers, always parasitizing the nests of other species. (CC BY 2.0 public domain photo).
On the Trails: Egg dumping behavior

Egg-dumping refers to the behavior of a female who puts her eggs… Continue reading

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Landon Simonson is greeted at home after hitting a grand slam on Friday during the Division I Alaska School Activities Association Baseball State Championships in Anchorage. (Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report)
JDHS baseball, TMHS softball teams make it to final day of state tournaments

Crimson Bears play for consolation title after grand slam win Friday; Falcons still in title hunt

Members of the Thunder Mountain High School softball team pose for a shot following their 18-0 victory against North Pole High School on Friday during the Division II Alaska School Activities Association Softball State Championships in Fairbanks. (Thunder Mountain Softball photo)
Final flight of the TMHS Falcons ends with 6-4 loss on final day of state softball tournament

“It’s been a fun ride,” coach says as team wins conference title, goes 29-12 during its final season.

Juneau’s Nate Fick leaps to make a catch while another Eagle River run scores during the opening game Thursday of the Division I Alaska School Activities Association Baseball State Championships. (Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report)
Crimson Bears finish sixth at state baseball tournament, coach calls season promising for young team

JDHS loses to Chugiak in consolation finale; scenarios for next season expand due to TMHS merger.

Thunder Mountain High School’s Ashlyn Gates, seen here pitching against Sitka High School during the Region V softball conference tournament last Saturday in Juneau, was named player of the game in an 8-0 win over Delta Junction High School to open the state softball title tournament on Thursday in Fairbanks. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire file photo)
TMHS wins state softball tournament openers 8-0, 16-1; JDHS falls short in baseball title quest

Falcons face Kodiak High School on Friday, Crimson Bears play consolation game against Colony.