TMHS senior Kiara Kookesh holds up a strand from the net after securing the win against JDHS on Friday for the two teams’ final math up in the 4A Region V tournament. Kookesh tied for the lead in scoring with a total of 12 points. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

TMHS senior Kiara Kookesh holds up a strand from the net after securing the win against JDHS on Friday for the two teams’ final math up in the 4A Region V tournament. Kookesh tied for the lead in scoring with a total of 12 points. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

TMHS girls net Region V title at home

ASAA March Madness Alaska State takes place March 22-25

The Juneau Empire’s expanded coverage of the Region V tournament is made possible by Sealaska Corp. Thanks to this sponsorship, this article —and all 2023 Region V coverage — is available online without a subscription to the Empire.

The Thunder Mountain High School girls got to cut down the net in their home gym following a 43-35 win against Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Friday night in the Region V 4A Girls Championship.

TMHS coach Andy Lee said the win isn’t just a big moment for the team, but the entire school, which Lee added the Lady Falcons are proud to represent.

“We grew up,” Lee said. “The crowd’s all chanting, ‘She’s a freshman,’ but we don’t have any more freshmen, we don’t have sophomores, we have a team. From 1 to 24 in our program, they all contributed to this. It’s a big moment for our school, it’s not us, we’re Juneau’s team now because we’re going to state. We’re taking Juneau with us, we’re taking the Bears with us, it’s only sweet because our opponents have been so good, all three teams are ranked top eight in the state. We’re just real proud to be where we are in this position, we’re proud to be champs. This win goes back to July, this is car washes in the rain, raffle tickets when you don’t want to, and concessions when it’s late at night, this is what it’s about.”

TMHS coach Andy lee poses with the Thunder Mountain Lady Falcons, the new region champions on Friday, after defeating JDHS in the final match up of the tournament. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

TMHS coach Andy lee poses with the Thunder Mountain Lady Falcons, the new region champions on Friday, after defeating JDHS in the final match up of the tournament. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

The Region V title is a case of “what a difference a year makes” for TMHS who last year did not win a single conference game. However, at the start of this season, Lee said the still-young team would be “dangerous enough to beat everyone on our schedule,” adding that inexperience made the team vulnerable in every contest, too.

The TMHS girls didn’t do much losing. They entered the Region V 4A Tournament as the top seed and notched competitive-but-convincing wins against strong conference competition.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire 
The Thunder Mountain High School girls basketball team celebrates on the court following a Region V 4A championship win. TMHS bested Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé for the title.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire The Thunder Mountain High School girls basketball team celebrates on the court following a Region V 4A championship win. TMHS bested Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé for the title.

In the title game, Kiara Kookesh and Cailynn Baxter led the Lady Falcons in scoring with a total of 12 points with Cambry Lockhart putting up 9 points and Kerra Baxter with 8 points. For JDHS, Kiyara Miller led her team with 10 points with Skylar Tuckwood putting up 6 points and Carylnn Casperson and Gwen Nizich tied for 5.

JDHS coach Tanya Nizich said she couldn’t be more proud to be associated with the kids on her team and couldn’t be prouder of their performance within the final matchup, as well as the entire season.

TMHS junior Mikah Carandang celebrates after cutting down here piece of the net following a 43-35 win in the Region V 4A Championship. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

TMHS junior Mikah Carandang celebrates after cutting down here piece of the net following a 43-35 win in the Region V 4A Championship. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

“We started off hot this season, had some injuries but we still got through it and worked hard,” Nizich said. “They played with heart, they played with hustle, and they most importantly played with class. Everybody contributed, we had two games today, I think it’s outlandish to ask these young athletes to play their best game of their life over and over again, but they did great. This morning they were hyped up and feeling good and they showed it on the court, even in this game. They gave it everything they’ve got, and they left it on the court. I’m proud of every single individual who played, who didn’t play, who only got a few minutes, everybody did their part.”

JDHS senior Skylar Tuckwood (13) drives toward the hoope while sandwiched by TMHS sophomores Cailynn (23) and Kerra Baxter (22) during the Region V 4A Girls Championship. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

JDHS senior Skylar Tuckwood (13) drives toward the hoope while sandwiched by TMHS sophomores Cailynn (23) and Kerra Baxter (22) during the Region V 4A Girls Championship. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

This year’s ASAA March Madness Alaska State competition for 3A/4A will be March 22-25 in Anchorage at the Alaska Airlines Center. There, the TMHS girls will be the No. 4 seed and start their tournament play at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, with a game against West Anchorage.

The season isn’t over for the Juneau-Douglas girls either, who were selected for an at-large bid and will be the tournament’s No. 6 seed.

They’ll start with a game against third-seeded Colony High School at 4:45 p.m. March 22.

• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at jonson.kuhn@juneauempire.com.

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