A feeling of assurance came over Puna Toutaiolepo midway through the fourth quarter.
Toutaiolepo, Thunder Mountain High School’s starting forward, just watched his team’s seventh 3-pointer swish through the nets at Juneau-Douglas High School. But this deep shot by junior Brady Carandang was far more meaningful than the others — it brought the Falcons even with crosstown rival JDHS for the first time in a Friday night tilt.
“Right when I saw Brady hit that, man, I knew that game was over,” Toutaiolepo said with a smile. “I love seeing that guy shoot the ball. If he makes that (shot) every time, I think we’d win every single game we play. That got me excited. I was like, ‘Dang, this guy’s clutch.’”
Thunder Mountain’s Carandang (13 points) and junior Bryson Echiverri (23 points) helped rally the Falcons to a 67-63 win, an outcome that seemed in doubt after TMHS went down 16-3 in the first quarter. TMHS was behind 55-42 to start the fourth.
“We just never gave up,” said Echiverri, who made 7 of 9 free throws in the final period. “We just went at it, knew we could win, and did our job.”
JDHS senior Philip Gonzales scored a season-high 27 points in the loss. Gonzales was unstoppable for most of the game, accounting for nearly half of the Crimson Bears’ points.
“Everything that we had in the scouting report on how to defend him, he was still making the shots,” TMHS coach John Blasco said. “You’ve got to give credit to a kid like that, playing the game at that caliber. I’ve always enjoyed that kid, so I’m happy to see him play to that level. Unfortunately, I don’t like seeing it against us.”
The Falcons made their move with about four minutes left to play. Echiverri converted a 3-point play and Carandang made back-to-back triples that tied the game at 59 with 2:55 remaining.
Later, with the game tied at 60, Toutaiolepo grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled on his shot attempt. He made both free throws for a 62-60 lead. JDHS had multiple attempts to retake the lead at the foul line, but was unable to able to do so, while TMHS made five of its last six free throws.
“We were fouling too much,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “We need to move our feet better. A lot of those fouls came in the fourth quarter and they capitalized on their free throws.”
JDHS girls lose bearings in defeat
Things were going to be different for the Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team in a homecoming showdown with the Sitka Wolves.
That was clear even before the 6:15 p.m. Friday tipoff at JDHS.
With their No. 2 scoring option and defensive ace Alyxn Bohulano saddled by an injury, the Crimson Bears knew scoring the basketball wasn’t going to come as easily. But even coach Steve Potter didn’t see a 37-31 loss to Sitka — the team the Crimson Bears shoved around in a 27-point blowout a month earlier — coming.
“We just had a hard time adjusting to where the other points were going to come from and we weren’t necessarily going after those points together,” Potter said. “They were more individual attempts to get points. It’s just not where we’re the most effective.”
JDHS senior Caitlin Pusich 12 points and junior Sadie Tuckwood added 11 points in the loss.
“Once they had control of the game we didn’t really come back or play as hard as we could’ve,” Pusich said. “They recognized that and they kept playing hard.”
Sitka senior Abby Forrester scored a team-high 10 points and freshman Chloe Morrison added seven.
In the beginning of the game it was the Wolves that struggled to score points. Junior Tiffany Elefante’s 3-pointer gave Sitka its first points with 2:54 left in the first quarter, by which time JDHS was already leading 9-0.
The tide changed in the second quarter though as JDHS turned the ball over nine times. Elefante’s runner tied the game at 12 with 5:10 left, and later made both her free throws to go up 16-12. Senior Kyleigh McArthur and Morrison grew Sitka’s lead to 19-14 by halftime.
JDHS remained five or more points behind throughout the third and fourth quarter.
TMHS downed by Kayhi
The Thunder Mountain High School girls lost to Ketchikan for the second time on the year on Friday.
The Falcons mustered just six points in the second and third quarters, respectively, to fall 42-36 at the Thunderdome.
Nina Fenumiai, Neal Garcia and Charlee Lewis combined for all but four of the Falcons’ points.
Fenumiai, who finished with 13, did most of her damage at the free-throw line, shooting 7 of 8 freebies. Garcia got hot from beyond the arc in the second half, making three treys, but it wasn’t enough to come back from a 19-15 halftime deficit.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.