The Thunder Mountain Falcons boys basketball team poses with their runner-up trophy after falling to East Anchorage 60-34 in the title game of the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championship game on Saturday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

The Thunder Mountain Falcons boys basketball team poses with their runner-up trophy after falling to East Anchorage 60-34 in the title game of the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championship game on Saturday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain boys fall to East 60-34 in state title game

Falcons’ historic final season ends after surprising run at championship, but journey will continue.

The Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball team’s historic state trip may have ended with a 60-34 loss to the East Anchorage Thunderbirds in the title game of the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Saturday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center, but their journey continues.

“Obviously we are all sad because we lost,” TMHS senior Thomas Baxter said. “I really wouldn’t say it is the end result for us, it is the journey. Just us as a group, we have been through so much and God has brought us closer over this season, closer than we would ever imagine. No one thought we were going to make it here, let alone to the state championship game. We just stuck together. It sucks to lose but I feel like we earned to be here. We enjoyed the moment. We didn’t back down. We lost but we played, we didn’t give up.”

Thunder Mountain senior James Polasky (24) scores past East Anchorage junior Jal Tharjiath (32) during the Falcons’ 60-34 loss to the Thunderbirds in the title game of the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Saturday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain senior James Polasky (24) scores past East Anchorage junior Jal Tharjiath (32) during the Falcons’ 60-34 loss to the Thunderbirds in the title game of the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Saturday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

The sixth-ranked Falcons (21-10) faced top-ranked East Anchorage (28-1), undefeated in the state of Alaska, and whose one loss came to California powerhouse St. Josephs.

The first quarter seemed to be one of high-intensity patience by both teams.

East junior Muhammed Sabally set the pace early, hitting a shot past the arc to start the stanza. TMHS seniors James Polasky and Kasen Ludeman would hold their own inside and those points would stand until midway through the period when Falcons senior Samuel Lockhart hit a jumper to trail 3-2.

East senior Michael George hit another shot past the arc with 1:51 remaining for a 6-2 Thunderbirds lead and Lockhart answered to pull the Falcons to 6-4.

Thunder Mountain coach John Blasco hugs senior Thomas Baxter (33) after subbing him out at the end of the Falcons’ 60-34 loss to the Thunderbirds in the title game of the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Saturday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain coach John Blasco hugs senior Thomas Baxter (33) after subbing him out at the end of the Falcons’ 60-34 loss to the Thunderbirds in the title game of the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Saturday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Sabally would drive and score at the buzzer for an 8-4 advantage to East.

East senior LaRon Roberts hit a shot past the arc to open the second quarter and again Lockhart answered for TMHS to trail 11-6.

East would close the quarter scoring 13 points while TMHS’ Baxter scored all five down the stretch to trail 24-11 at the half.

“We had a lot of good looks, two back door cuts and layups that wouldn’t fall for us,” TMHS coach John Blasco said. “We had 11 points at the half. We had a lot of good looks but the ball wasn’t going in for us. Credit their defense for a lot of that as well. We dumped in 16 points in the third quarter. I thought maybe we could squeeze it, but when you are down you can’t just exchange bucket for bucket and they finished every single play.”

Thunder Mountain seniors TJ Guevarra (5) and Lance Nierra (1) defend East senior Michael George (3) during the Falcons’ 60-34 loss to the Thunderbirds in the title game of the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Saturday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain seniors TJ Guevarra (5) and Lance Nierra (1) defend East senior Michael George (3) during the Falcons’ 60-34 loss to the Thunderbirds in the title game of the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Saturday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

East would outscore TMHS 18-16 in the third quarter. The Falcons would get scores from senior Kasen Ludeman and Baxter sandwiched around Thunderbird baskets and Lockhart would hit for seven points and senior Lance Nierra closed with a basket but TMHS trailed 42-27.

East spread the court in the fourth quarter and went on a 10-4 run, then made three unanswered baskets before Lockhart was fouled on a made shot and added the extra free-throw to trail 52-34.

East would score the final eight points of the game.

“You have to give all the credit in the world to East,” TMHS coach John Blasco said. “They are undefeated in the state of Alaska for a reason. They are loaded. They execute so well. Our press that worked so well in two games of overtime wins, well we just couldn’t press them. They picked it apart and they finished. Like I said, they are an undefeated team in the state of Alaska for a reason. We congratulate them for winning the state title.”

Thunder Mountain senior Samuel Lockhart (14) scores over East senior Michael George (3) during the Falcons’ 60-34 loss to the Thunderbirds in the title game of the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Saturday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain senior Samuel Lockhart (14) scores over East senior Michael George (3) during the Falcons’ 60-34 loss to the Thunderbirds in the title game of the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Saturday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Lockhart led the Falcons with 18 points, Baxter added 10, Nierra, Ludeman and Polasky two each. Senior TJ Guevarra had two assists. Ludeman led with five rebounds, Baxter four, Polasky and Guevarra three apiece and senior Joren Gasga one. Lockhart had two steals, Nierra and Ludeman one apiece.

TMHS hit 12-40 from the floor (10/24 from 2pt, 2/16 from 3pt) and 8-14 from the charity stripe. The Falcons had 16 rebounds and just three turnovers.

East hit 26-49 from the field (20/29 from 2pt, 6/20 from 3pt) and were 2-3 from the line. The Thunderbirds had 33 rebounds and five turnovers.

Sabally led East with 23 points, senior Akeem Sulaiman 16, George and Roberts five apiece, junior Deng Deng four, junior Wal Tharjiath three, and seniors Austin Johnson Akobo Riek two apiece. Sulaiman led with 12 rebounds and Sabally nine. George had four assists and Roberts three.

The Falcons beat the third-ranked West Valley Wolfpack 53-51 in overtime on Wednesday and the second-ranked Service Cougars 48-45 in overtime Friday.

The Thunder Mountain Falcons girls basketball team won the Academic Award at the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Girls Basketball State Championships on Saturday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

The Thunder Mountain Falcons girls basketball team won the Academic Award at the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Girls Basketball State Championships on Saturday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Baxter and Polasky were named to the All-State Tournament team. The Falcons’ girls team won the Academic Award and Kerra Baxter was All-State Tournament selection.

“We are just so happy to be here,” Thomas Baxter said. “We’ve all been talking about it after this loss and we wouldn’t change it for the world, even the loss…It was just the perfect journey. These guys, we are going to be brothers forever.”

As a young kid T. Baxter had a little tiny basketball and would shoot on his tiny outdoor plastic hoop, rain or shine, on 606 Rambler Street in Petersburg. Polasky remembers playing since elementary school and dribbling on Anne Coleman Road, and Lockhart first dribbled on his driveway on Pt. Lena Loop Road.

“Ever since I can remember it has always been around,” Lockhart said. “Yeah, I owe my life to it. It has gotten me through a lot.”

Thunder Mountain senior Kasen Ludeman blocks a shot by East senior Akeem Sulaiman (12) as Falcons teammate James Polask moves in during the Falcons’ 60-34 loss to the Thunderbirds in the title game of the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Saturday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain senior Kasen Ludeman blocks a shot by East senior Akeem Sulaiman (12) as Falcons teammate James Polask moves in during the Falcons’ 60-34 loss to the Thunderbirds in the title game of the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Saturday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

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