Weekend basketball preview: TMHS boys face No. 1 Ketchikan

The Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball team will face off against the state’s No. 1 ranked Ketchikan at home this weekend.

Following an arduous stretch of eight away games, of which Thunder Mountain won two, the Falcons will finally have a pair of home games at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The competition couldn’t be any stiffer, however, as the Falcons face the Ketchikan Kings, who are ranked as the state’s best 4A team by the Alaska Association of Basketball Coaches.

Thunder Mountain is coming off two tight away games against West Valley and Lathrop, losing to West Valley 58-55 and beating Lathrop 50-48. Last weekend, Ketchikan also split its games, losing to Juneau-Douglas High School in overtime 63-66 on Friday and downing the Crimson Bears 73-57 on Saturday.

Though losing six of its last eight and at the bottom of the Southeast 4A standings, TMHS has shown it can play up to its competition. TMHS battled No. 4 ranked JDHS in a couple closer-than-the-score games, and took a talented Service team to overtime in an endowment game, losing 66-63.

The x-factor for the Falcons lies in how it plans to contain a much bigger Kayhi team. Ketchikan’s starting lineup ranges from 6’0” to 6’7”; some of TMHS’ best scorers are guards Chase Saviers and RJ Manning, both under 6 feet tall. TMHS will bank on senior Shane Mielke, who adds some size down low, but Ketchikan’s length is still stretching TMHS coach John Blasco’s imagination.

“There are only so many 6’7” guys in town that we can get to come practice against us,” coach Blasco said, jokingly adding that he’s considering bringing “a ladder into practice to run layup drills where I’m just up there swatting everything.”

Both Thunder Mountain High School and Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball teams will participate in the 18th annual Lady Lynx Prep Shootout Tournament at Dimond High School this weekend.

Sixteen of 20 of the state’s 4A girls teams will vie for the Shootout’s title this year, with teams splitting into two eight-team tournaments based off the results of Wednesday’s opening games. Wednesday’s winners will compete in a “Gold” bracket and the losers will compete in a “Maroon” bracket. The Maroon bracket championship will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday with the Gold bracket title game at 6 p.m.

The tournament is a major chance for both Juneau teams to test their mettle against the state’s best, and to scout potential opponents for the March Madness Alaska State Basketball Championships. TMHS coach Tanya Nizich had a great experience at the tournament in the past, and is looking forward to seeing how her team measures up to the competition.

“We go and make a day of it, that’s why we go and are excited to be a part of it. Not only to get to play, but to watch other good teams and good players. It is a good way to learn other teams and get to know the players,” Nizich said.

All tournament games can be streamed online through NFHS Network and Steve Vreeman at nfhsnetwork.com.

JDHS boys basketball is off this weekend, with its next competitions being a pair of home games against Sitka on Feb. 11 and 12. It hasn’t been a slow week for the Crimson Bears, however, as a shakeup in the state coaches poll has JDHS moving up again, leapfrogging to the No. 4 spot.

The Alaska Association of Basketball Coaches state 4A boys basketball rankings stand as follows: 1. Ketchikan; 2. Dimond; 3. East; 4. Juneau-Douglas; 5. West Anchorage.

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