Tikigaq boys erase 18-point fourth quarter deficit to advance to Alaska 2A basketball championship
Mar. 18—For the first time since 2019, both the Tikigaq boys and girls basketball teams will be playing in the 2A state championship games.
That season, both teams brought home state titles to the small community of Point Hope in Northwest Alaska and they will have a chance to do so again after the two Harpooner hoops squads came out on top of dramatic victories in the semifinals on Friday night at the Alaska Airlines Center.
While their top-seeded girls team had to hold onto their lead for dear life, the No. 3-seeded Tikigaq boys engineered a massive comeback, earning an 18-points deficit with 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter to beat Metlakatla 67-63 in an epic finish.
"I never doubted in my mind that we could come back and win," Tikigaq boys coach Teddy Frankson said.
The big deficit had some players with their heads down, but said Frankson never wavered.
"It's what he says to us," senior Benjamin Lane said. "He said he believed in us so I give him all the credit."
The Harpooners trailed by double digits for most of the second quarter but closed the gap were only down nine points at halftime 32-23 after senior Joelian Lane knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers.
The Chiefs would take control of the game in the third quarter and went back ahead by double figures. That lead would would remain until Aqquiluk Hank made it a seven-point game at the 4:30 mark after making a layup, drawing a foul, and successfully making a free throw attempt.
Tikigaq kept chiseling away and after Metlakatla's Trinity Jackson, who recorded a game-high 11 rebounds, fouled out with 1:44 left on the clock, the Harpooners rattled off a 6-0 run to tie the game at 63-63.
With all the momentum and support of a surging crowd, Benjamin Lane hit a big shot with 15 seconds left in regulation.
He opted not to drive the ball and decided pull up from behind the arc instead and his bold gamble paid off after the ball banked in off the glass for a successful 3-pointer to give his team its first lead of the game.
"I was just hoping it would go in," Benjamin Lane said. "I just got lucky with the bank I guess."
Both his cousin Joelian Lane and Frankson questioned his decision in the moment but after he made the shot, they couldn't help but rejoice.
"At that point, I knew we had it in the bag," Joelian Lane said.
With the win, Tikigaq not only punched its ticket back to the state title game after a one-year hiatus but also avenged a loss suffered in last year's semifinal round that prevented the Harpooners from having an opportunity to extend their state title streak to three straight.
"Last year we lost to this same team and they came back and beat us when we were up 18 or 19," Frankson said. "It feels a lot better being on top this time around."
After not being able to have their typical large and rowdy crowd at regions due to weather-related travel issues, the Harpooner faithful have been loud and proud this week, which the players appreciate.
"The crowd is out biggest motivation because we're a family," Benjamin Lane said. "We're one community and we help each other out."
While Benjamin Lane was the one who hit the game-winning shot, it was Joelian Lane who took the game over in the fourth quarter as he recorded 17 points in the final eight minutes alone to record his second straight 36-point game.
Metlakatla had four players record double figures in scoring and were led by Cameron Gaube's 16 points followed by Jackson (12) and Jayden Buhler (12).
Tikigaq girls fend off furious rally from Glennallen
It appeared on Friday as if the reigning 2A Alaska state champion and top-seeded Tikigaq girls basketball team was going to cruise to the 2023 state finals for a chance to claim back-to-back titles.
The Harpooners had built up a commanding 25-8 lead over unranked Glennallen at halftime but ended up narrowly escaping with a 40-35 victory. The Panthers made a ferocious rally in the second half to claw their way back and almost mounted an incredible comeback.
"That was my fault," Tikigaq coach Ramona Rock said. "(Glennallen) wasn't hitting the 3′s in the first half and I told the team they were going to come out and give it their all in the second half. I should've had them matchup early and go man-to-man."
The Harpooners were able to avoid what would've been a shocking upset thanks in large part to sophomore Jennifer Nash. She scored nearly half of the team's total points with a game-high 18.
"We just had to settle down, run our offense, and make it up on defense," senior Jadyn Lane said.
The Panthers outproduced the Harpooners 17-8 in the third quarter to open the fourth only down by eight points at 33-25. At one point, Glennallen reduced the deficit to just two points but Tikigaq was able to extended their lead late with scoring from Virginia Teayoumeak, who led the team with 11 rebounds and finished with nine points.
The team would love nothing more than to reward their passionate supporters by capturing a second straight state championship.
"We've got a lot of people that made it in so I'm glad they want to bring some happiness and joy to the village," Rock said.
Metlakatla girls hold on to get past Su-Valley
Second-seeded Metlakatla is headed back to the 2A state championship game for the first time since 2018 after beating third-seeded Su-Valley 28-24 in Friday's semifinal round.
"Sometimes we let them hurry us up a little bit and started making some questionable passes just to get rid of it but overall, we did pretty good limiting the turnovers in the second half" Metlakatla coach Julian Russell said.
Even though the Chiefs struggled to put up points against the Rams, they used a relentless effort on defense and some late free throws to punch their ticket to the finals.
"They work so hard and communicate really well," Russell said. "That's what I instill in them right from the beginning, communication. The frontline players need the backline to tell them who's coming and who's going ... We've been able to hold some really good teams to low digit numbers."
Metlakatla's Bree Chavez received player of the game honors after leading the team with a game-high 12 points.
Su-Valley was led by Alana Baron's 12 points, which accounted for 50 percent of her team's total offensive production on the night.
The last time the Metlakatla reached the state title game also happened to be Russell's first year at the helm of the program. Ironically that game was against Tikigaq, who Metlakatla will face Saturday.
"We did really well for three and a half quarters against them (on Jan. 19) at the Alaska Airlines Classic," Russell said. "They just made some more plays in the last half of the fourth quarter and beat us (70-58) but we know we can run with them."
Ninilchik boys pulls away from Petersburg in second half
Reigning 2A state champions and top-seeded Ninilchik was given all it could handle in the first half against the fifth-seeded Petersburg Vikings in Friday's semifinal. But Wolverines were able to put some distance between the two teams on the scoreboard in the final two quarters to win 53-42.
"They were kind of controlling the tempo," Ninilchik coach Nick Finley said. "They like to slow us down and they did a good job of that. That's Southeast basketball in a nutshell right there."
The Wolverines would've gone into halftime knotted at 19-19 had it not been for a long jumper from Jaylin Scott just inside the arc to give them a two-point lead. They would extend that lead in the second half by outscoring the Vikings 16-9 in the third quarter and 16-14 in the fourth.
"We were able to get good shots and then get our shooters open outside a little bit," Finley said.
Ninilchik senior guard Colvin Moore earned player of the game honors for the second day in a row after consistently making his presence felt on both ends of the court and scoring nearly 30 points.
"In my mind, he's the best player at this level," Finley said. "He does it all. He rebounds, plays defense and he can score from anywhere inside or outside."
Both of the starting post players for Petersburg recorded double figures on scoring with Kyle Biggers' 19 points leading the team, followed by Jack Engell, who scored 10 before he fouled out of the game.
Metlakatla 28, Su-Valley 24
Tikigaq 40, Glennallen 35
Craig 41, Haines 36
Unalakleet 52, Chevak 39
Tikigaq vs. Metlakatla, 6:30 p.m.
Glennallen vs. Su-Valley, 11 a.m.
Craig vs. Unalakleet, 8 a.m.
Tikigaq 67, Metlakatla 63
Ninilchik 53, Petersburg 42
Unalakleet 72, Hooper Bay 56
Wrangell 61, Cordova 47
Ninilchik vs. Tikigaq, 8:30 p.m.
Petersberg vs. Metlakatla, 12:30 p.m.
Unalakleet vs. Wrangell, 9:30 a.m.