The Thunder Mountain High School girls basketball team saw both its first conference win in over a year and its first loss of the season in a pair of home games against Ketchikan High School on Friday and Saturday.
The Lady Falcons’ record is 8-1 (1-1 in conference) following a 57-48 win and 43-40 loss against the Lady Kings that saw Kayhi rally from a 27-14 deficit at the half to win by 3 points.
When asked what he told the team following the tough Saturday game, TMHS coach Andy Lee said he took responsibility for the outcome.
“I said it was my fault,” Lee said. “I didn’t do a great job in the second half. It’s not about them. Tonight, we weren’t as prepared as we could’ve been, and that’s on me.”
Lee said a full schedule early in the season had led to some fatigue among the team, and an injury to valuable junior Kara Strong disrupted TMHS’ rotation.
“I thought that I could have handled the rotation better in light of that,” Lee said. “I think the things that we did poorly are correctable. So, they’re coachable, and that’s why I say, that’s on me. The mistakes that we made were of a coaching variety, so I need to put us in a better position to win.”
That said, the Lady Falcons were in a position to win for much of the game by virtue of a second quarter in which TMHS outscored Kayhi 18-5 to build a 27-14 lead at the half. TMHS’ first-half lead was padded buzzer-beating 3-pointer by junior Mikah Carandang. On Friday, her sister, junior Jaya Carandang also made a deep buzzer-beater to close the half.
In the third quarter, Kayhi’s defense clamped down holding TMHS to just 4 points. In the fourth quarter, the Lady Kings put up 20 points in large part due to clutch free-throw shooting — they went 8-for-8 as a team — and three 3-pointers to complete the comeback.
Junior Bree Johnson led the Lady Kings in scoring in both the quarter and game, scoring 19 total points with 10 coming in the fourth. Teammate senior Lindsay Byron also broke the double-digit barrier for Kayhi scoring 11 total, including 5 in the fourth.
Two Lady Falcons, sophomores Cailynn and Kerra Baxter, also reached double figures with 14 and 10 points, respectively.
While the outcome wasn’t ideal, Lee said, it’s a learning experience for a young team, and TMHS still sports a strong record.
“If you had told us we’d be 8-1 in November, we’d take it,” Lee said.
Those eight wins include a 57-48 victory on Friday against the Lady Kings. The game was the team’s first home game of the season, and first in-conference win in a while after last season saw a young Lady Falcons team go winless in Region V 4A play. Last year, Kayhi was the top team in the conference.
“We’re done with this game, we’re on to the next one,” Lee said in a post-game interview. “We can’t celebrate this. We didn’t win any conference games last year, we’re not getting too excited. My line is we’re happy, but we’re not satisfied.”
TMHS had to overcome a slow start to earn the win. Kayhi got out to an 11-9 lead in the first quarter, but TMHS outscored the Lady Kings 14-5 in the second quarter thanks to outstanding efforts from a standout quartet made up of two pairs of twins. Cailynn and Kerra Baxter each played well with Cailynn Baxter scoring 5 points in the quarter, and her sister sinking a free throw while playing tough defense. Juniors Jaya and Mikah Carandang each added three points, including a buzzer-beating deep 3-pointer from Jaya Carandang.
That fearsome foursome also finished as TMHS’ top-four scorers with Kerra Baxter leading the way with 16 points, Cailynn Baxter close behind with 14 points and both Carandangs putting up 9 points.
TMHS picked up where it left off with a 14-point third quarter that was eclipsed by a 17-point outburst from Ketchikan’s Johnson and Byron, who scored all of Kayhi’s pints in the quarter. Johnson was the leading scorer for the Lady Kings in the quarter and the game, scoring 9 of her 21 points in the third. Byron added 8 points to start the second half and finished the contest with 16 points, while playing exceptional defense and passing well.
In the fourth, Kayhi picked up the intensity on defense and got within 5 points of TMHS, but time after time, the ball found its way to Kerra Baxter, who scored nine points in the quarter to help the Lady Falcons put the game out of reach.
“We can build on it,” Lee said. “We’re super young at critical positions, so it’s a learning thing, so as we learn we’ll get better.”
This week, the Lady Falcons will take on some stiff competition on the road.
Wednesday, they’ll play Chugiak High School followed by Colony High School on Thursday, Monroe Catholic High School on Friday and Grace Christian School on Saturday.
“Four more games, and we’re up for it,” Lee said. “We’re going to take it on.”
• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.