Thunder Mountain senior Samuel Lockhart (14) passes to senior Kasen Ludeman (13) under pressure from West Valley senior Sawyer Petersen (24) during the Falcons 53-51 overtime win against the Wolfpack in the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Wednesday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain senior Samuel Lockhart (14) passes to senior Kasen Ludeman (13) under pressure from West Valley senior Sawyer Petersen (24) during the Falcons 53-51 overtime win against the Wolfpack in the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Wednesday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

TMHS boys rally from 11 down in 4th quarter, open state tournament with OT win against West Valley

No. 6 Falcons top No. 3 Wolfpack, next face second-ranked Service Cougars in Friday’s semifinal.

The sixth-ranked Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball team looked as if their school’s final road trip would sputter short of its destination in their opening game of the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Basketball State Championships against third-seeded West Valley. But the Falcons found a few more gears to force a 53-51 overtime win against the Wolfpack on Wednesday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center.

“I’m speechless,” Thunder Mountain coach John Blasco said. “These boys don’t stop surprising me. I’m just thankful to be coaching them. They’ve just got so much fight in them. They were down and they just kept battling.”

Trailing by 11 points, 39-28, starting the fourth quarter the Falcons went on a 12-2 run to pull within 41-40.

TMHS senior Samuel Lockhart started the splurge by getting fouled on a scoring drive and completing the free throw, classmate Kasen Ludeman secured a steal and was fouled on a scoring play, Ludeman scored again inside, and Lockhart drove for another basket and then hit from past the arc.

Thunder Mountain seniors Kasen Ludeman (13) and Joren Gasga pressure West Valley senior Jamari Sims (5) during the Falcons 53-51 overtime win against the Wolfpack in the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Wednesday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe for the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain seniors Kasen Ludeman (13) and Joren Gasga pressure West Valley senior Jamari Sims (5) during the Falcons 53-51 overtime win against the Wolfpack in the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Wednesday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe for the Juneau Empire)

Lockhart’s three was his third and final of the game as West Valley had watched a lot of film on the Falcons’ sharpshooter.

“My mindset is to just let the game come to me,” Lockhart said. “If they’re taking away my three then I had the rim and I had a couple ‘and-ones’ and mid-range shots. Whatever they give me I’ll take. I think I am a pretty good all-around player.”

At the end of the game Lockhart didn’t wait for the game to come to him, he went to the game.

“I kind of like to take initiative at the end of the game. I trust myself to make the right read. There was one play where I was doubled and I hit Kasen (Ludeman) and that felt great, just as great as scoring.”

Free Throws by West Valley’s Sawyer Petersen and Leyton Nield gave the Wolfpack a 44-40 edge, but Joren Gasga scored and Lockhart was fouled on a drive and converted two free throws for a tie with a minute left in the stanza.

TMHS senior Tristan Guevarra stole a ball and Lockhart was fouled again, converting both shots for a 46-44 lead with 42 seconds left.

West Valley’s Nield hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 46-46 with 28 seconds left, but neither side found a good chance to score and play was extended the extra four minutes.

“You could see it in Sam (Lockhart), he was not going to let the boys down,” Blasco said. “Kasen (Ludeman) was huge as we were playing a little bit without James (Polasky), Joren (Gasga) played a ton of minutes for us…Thomas (Baxter) had a tough night shooting, but he just rebounded and played defense, they all stepped up, TJ (Guevarra) had a huge steal in our press there late. These boys, they are just playing so tough together it is just really fun.”

Thunder Mountain senior Thomas Baxter (33) shoots over West Valley senior Leyton Nield (11) during the Falcons 53-51 overtime win against the Wolfpack in the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Wednesday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe for the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain senior Thomas Baxter (33) shoots over West Valley senior Leyton Nield (11) during the Falcons 53-51 overtime win against the Wolfpack in the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Wednesday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe for the Juneau Empire)

The Falcons gave up a free throw in overtime, but senior Thomas Baxter hit for a 48-47 lead.

West Valley again seemed to take control with two baskets by Nield for a 51-48 advantage with under a minute remaining.

Lockhart was fouled and converted both shots to trail 51-50 with 36 seconds left, then rebounded a missed Wolfpack free throw and was fouled on a scoring drive, converting the free throw for the 53-51 advantage.

The Falcons’ defense slowed the Wolfpack before halfcourt and an errant shot missed at the buzzer, and the Falcons handed the 21-win Wolfpack their fifth and final loss of the season.

“We’re not done yet,” Lockhart said. “I’m not satisfied at all. Right when it happens you are satisfied for a split second, but I’m not at all. I’m ready for the next game. It’s super exciting that we have been there before, with Kayhi we were down even more, so we all believed in each other. We didn’t have any doubts. We just kept playing hard and believing in each other.”

The game opened with West Valley taking a 12-5 first quarter advantage. Baxter scored on a reverse drive for TMHS and Lockhart hit his first shot past the arc.

West Valley seemed to be immune to the referee’s whistle when TMHS’ Baxter tried to score.

“I kind of expect it,” Baxter said. “I’m used to it, I’m a bigger guy, a lot of people bump into me when it gets down to it. When that time comes I just have to play more scrappy and focus on some things that I am better at in that regard…like steals, playing hard, getting on balls, going out of bounds trying to get the ball in. With Sam (Lockhart) playing how he can it is easy to see my role and just let him do his thing. The team was pulling together, playing as a group. My teammates do a really good job of keeping me humble and reminding me it is not all about the calls on me. They do a great job, they are easy to play with and they keep my head in the game.”

Thunder Mountain senior Kasen Ludeman secures a rebound against West Valley as teammates TJ Guevarra, Joren Gasga, Thomas Baxter and Samuel Lockhart look on during the Falcons 53-51 overtime win against the Wolfpack in the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Wednesday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe for the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain senior Kasen Ludeman secures a rebound against West Valley as teammates TJ Guevarra, Joren Gasga, Thomas Baxter and Samuel Lockhart look on during the Falcons 53-51 overtime win against the Wolfpack in the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 4A Boys Basketball State Championships on Wednesday at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Klas Stolpe for the Juneau Empire)

The Wolfpack stretched their lead out to 18-7. The Falcons hobbled big man, senior James Polasky, scored his only two points in the game, but he continued to push on the boards.

Baxter was fouled on a scoring drive and made the free throw to close to 18-10.

The Wolfpack’s L. Nield and Gannon Young matched a deep shot by Lockhart, a Guevarra drive and two more Lockhart drives, one with an added free throw to keep the Falcons close 27-25 at the half.

TMHS’ Ludeman would open the third quarter with a rebound basket, Guevarra had a pair of free throws and Baxter was hammered on three straight shots that just rimmed out as the Falcons found themselves trailing 39-28 when West Valley’s L. Nield followed a missed shot to score.

Then TMHS’ roster adjusted for the final push to secure the win.

“We came into the game with our star big injured and he couldn’t play as much as he used to so I just figured that since he is out I need to just get into the paint every time a shot goes up,” Ludeman said. “Just get a rebound or tip it out. Sometimes they are bigger than me, sometimes I can’t grab it so I try to help the team out with second-chance shots. I’ve never really been in overtime before, but it definitely felt good with the crowd. It was definitely different and new, but I kept my head up and kept playing.”

Lockhart led the Falcons with a game-high 28 points and three rebounds. Baxter scored nine points (4 RB, 2 steals), Ludeman eight points (6 rebounds, 1 ST), Geuevarra four (4 ST), Gasga and Polasky two apiece.

TMHS hit 12-14 at the charity stripe, 16-36 from the field, and 3-12 past the arc.

The Wolfpack’s L. Nield scored 24 points (10 RB), Petersen nine (8 RB), Jayden Miranda and Jonah Bell six apiece, Young and H. Nield three apiece.

West Valley hit 11-16 at the line, 17-33 from the field, and 2-9 past the arc.

The Falcons had fallen to the Wolfpack 62-51 in January.

“This win feels great, really great,” Baxter said. “We’ve been waiting for our ‘get-back’ for a little while now after we played them earlier in the season and lost by 11. We have been waiting for this one, it’s been a long time coming.”

And now the road trip continues as the No. 6 Falcons (20-9) will face the No. 2 ranked Service Cougars (21-8) in the 6:15 p.m. semifinal on Friday. Service topped No. 7 Wasilla (12-13) 55-41. West Valley plays Wasilla in the losers’ bracket Friday.

In the other half of the bracket No. 1 East topped No. 8 Palmer 55-36 and No. 5 Monroe beat No. 4 West Anchorage 53-43.

The Falcons fell to the Cougars 63-60 in January, when their road trip first started with the season.

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