Thunder Mountain’s Puna Toutaiolepo made plays when it mattered the most on Friday night against Juneau-Douglas.
Toutaiolepo, who finished with a team-high 18 points, swished a go-ahead 3-pointer and dished out several assists during a key 23-10 fourth-quarter run to lift the Falcons to a 69-59 win over the Crimson Bears at the Thunderdome.
Junior Brady Carandang scored 17 points for Thunder Mountain, who trailed by as many as 15 points in the second half. Junior Braden Jenkins scored 10 and Bryson Echiverri and Meki Toutaiolepo had nine and eight respectively.
“Puna was very clutch,” said Carandang, who had three 3-pointers. “He hit those nice assists on Braden and then hit that clutch 3 at the end to take the lead in the fourth. That was very clutch. He’s a good shooter.”
JDHS senior Krishant Samtani finished with 20 points and a team-high four 3-pointers. Cooper Kriegmont added 12 points and Philip Gonzales had 12 points in the losing effort.
“They did a much better job on the boards in the second half, and that made a difference,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “We didn’t get some of our offensive rebounds and putbacks and things like that. That can really be tough on a defense if you’re getting offensive rebounds. They limited us to one shot quite a bit in the second half and then they took care of the ball and they finished.”
After outscoring the Crimson Bears 20-9 in the third quarter, the Falcons went right back to work in the fourth.
Standing at the free throw line, Toutaiolepo found a cutting Carandang, and the junior calmly laid the ball in to knot the game at 52-52 one minute into the final frame.
Toutaiolepo then dished to an open Jenkins, whose layup gave the Falcons a 54-52 lead.
The Crimson Bears retook the lead on their next possession though, and had a three-point lead and possession with 3:30 left.
TMHS didn’t panic.
After two Jenkins free throws, Toutaiolepo hit a deep straightaway 3-pointer to take the lead for good. Carandang, Jenkins and Hansel Hinckle shot 8 of 8 from the foul line in the final minute to seal the victory.
“Getting that third quarter run was big, then the fourth quarter was all about finding the guys that are our best finishers or knock-down shooters,” TMHS coach John Blasco said. “They over played a few guys and we were able to make that extra pass.”
Tad Watson finished off his own miss to give the Crimson Bears their first lead of the game 30 seconds into the second quarter. Yadao made two off-balance layups over the ensuing minute, and Thunder Mountain took a timeout trailing 24-20 with 6:06 left in the first half.
JDHS continued to roll, and Samtani’s 3 at the buzzer gave them a 40-26 halftime lead.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 15 25 9 10 — 59: Samtani 20, Kriegmont 13, Gonzales 12, Yadao 8, McCormick 2, Watson 2, Elizarde 2.
THUNDER MOUNTAIN 18 8 20 23 — 69: P. Toutaiolepo 19, Carandang 17, Jenkins 10, Echiverri 9, M. Toutaiolepo 8, Hinckle 7.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.