The Thunder Mountain High School girls basketball team was unable to survive a late push from West Anchorage High School Wednesday in their first game in this year’s Alaska School Activities Association March Madness.
The fourth-seeded Falcons, who earned a state bid as Region V 4A champs, played against fifth-seeded West Anchorage High School for a physical game that ultimately fell in West’s favor 54-50.
TMHS coach Andy Lee said that while the team stayed strong throughout, turnovers put the team in a difficult position. TMHS turned the ball over 23 times in the contest compared to 19 for West.
“We played a great three quarters,” Lee said. “It was a physically tough game throughout. We played solid but we were hurt by turnovers. We’re now ready to see how high we can place.”
In the early going, TMHS was able to play the way they have all year long with versatility from sophomore sisters Kerra and Cailynn Baxter on both ends and long-range shooting from its backcourt with generally reliable rebounding from a variety of players, including the Baxters, junior Ashlyn Gates and sophomore Addison Wilson.
Kerra Baxter led her team with 21 points, Cailynn Baxter added 14 and Mikah Carandang added 6 points on two 3-pointers.
TMHS enjoyed a 14-10 advantage entering the second quarter and a 22-17 at the half. While the second half looked to be more of the same at first, with the Baxters generating a 7-point run, and the Lady Falcons building a 10-point lead heading into the game’s final frame.
However, toward the end of the third quarter, West cranked up the defensive intensity considerably, and TMHS had great difficulty moving the ball down court against West’s trapping defense.
West continued to hound the ball on defense, hit timely shots, secure rebounds for second-chance looks, and TMHS’ lead faded as the Lady Eagles outscored the Lady Falcons 24-10 in the final quarter.
Though TMHS kept the score close throughout the fourth quarter, in the end, West proved to be too much in the final quarter, and free throws from West’s Jordan Zackery put the game out of reach with seconds left to play.
Kerra Baxter was named Player of Game for TMHS and Zackery, who led West with 19 points, was named Player of the Game for West Anchorage. TMHS is now in the consolation bracket.
• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at firstname.lastname@example.org.