Daily Sitka Sentinel
The Sitka High Wolves came into Wednesday night’s Bridge Battle with Mt. Edgecumbe having already clinched the top seed at the Region V tournament next week. The Braves would finish second or third in the conference depending on the outcome, but their path to a Region V title, or perhaps a state berth, would mostly be unchanged.
But that was all classroom talk. And Wednesday’s game at a packed Sitka High gym went right down to the wire.
The Wolves, trailing most of the way after a slow start, pulled out a 59-56 victory over their crosstown rivals with seniors Hunter Lee, Mik Potrzuski and Devan Romine hitting big shots down the stretch.
A three by Romine from the corner tied the game at 51-51 with about 4:20 to play and Lee put the Wolves ahead with a floater on the baseline less than a minute later. Sitka’s last lead had come early in the third quarter at 31-30. They would not trail again.
Kacy Green got Edgecumbe within a point with a free throw with 1:57 on the clock, then tied the game with another free throw about 30 seconds later.
With 90 seconds remaining, it was 53-53.
Potrzuski broke the tie with a three on Sitka’s next possession. It was 56-53 and the Wolves had their biggest lead of the game with 1:15 to go in the game. After a miss by Jon De La Cruz from the free throw line, Romine made what may have been the play of the game. He picked off a pass and threw it ahead to Lee who scored a wide-open layup. Lee ended up with 6 points for the game, on three key buckets in the final quarter.
Sitka was up 59-53 with under 30 seconds left, but Edgecumbe had no plans to go quietly.
Senior Cody Sherman hit a long three with 13 seconds left that cut the Sitka lead in half. And after another Sitka miss from the free throw line, Edgecumbe had the ball back with 11.6 seconds left. It was a one possession game.
Off a rebound by Jaylin Prince, the Braves came into the front court with a chance to tie the game. As the clocked ticked down, Sherman thought about pulling up from deep again, but dished to junior Grant Akaran who shot a three from the corner with Potrzuski in his face. The shot missed, Romine dove on the rebound and the buzzer sounded to end the game.
“It was nice to get the game,” SHS coach Andy Lee said. “If there was a bad taste in our mouth it’s not there anymore.”
Lee was referring to Sitka’s loss last Saturday to Craig. It was the first conference defeat of the season for the Wolves and they went into Wednesday’s game looking to build some momentum heading into postseason play. It was senior night at SHS and Sitka’s seniors led the way for the Wolves.
Bae Widmier, after getting 18 points and 14 boards in the first meeting of the season between the two local teams, drew double and triple teams in the post Wednesday night.
But the senior forward still managed 14 points and 15 boards. Romine led the Wolves with 17 points, on 7-9 shooting from the field. He was 3-4 from downtown and made two of those threes in the fourth quarter as Sitka erased a seven-point Edgecumbe lead. Potrzuski had 16 points, on 4-6 shooting from beyond the arc, and 4 assists.
Coach Lee said he was happy with how the Wolves moved the ball. Sitka scored 24 field goals in the game and had 19 assists as a team.
Junior Kacy Green, a point guard from Hooper Bay, continued his strong play for Edgecumbe, scoring 20 points as he attacked the basket and got to the hoop against Sitka’s defense. Jaylin Prince had 11 points and 7 boards, while Sherman scored 11 of his own. Leo Ford chipped in 8 points and Dominique Hall had 6.
Hall injured his left ankle with about three minutes to go in the third quarter and missed the rest of the game. MEHS coach Archie Young said the junior from Nome was “day-to-day.”
Hall’s status will be a big question as the Braves get ready for Region V play next week in Ketchikan.
Young said Hall’s absence mostly hurt Edgecumbe on the defensive end as the Braves struggled with their rotations and gave Sitka some open looks, including on the big three-pointers that gave the lead back to the Wolves.
“We just didn’t rotate,” Young said. “We got a little spread out defensively and weren’t where we were supposed to be.”
Consistency has been an issue for the Braves this season, but Young said his players got after it for 32 minutes Wednesday night.
“I was definitely pleased with their effort,” he said. “For the most part, we competed the whole game.”
The win Wednesday improved Sitka to 19-3 overall and 11-1 in Southeast. The Braves closed out the regular season at 13-8, with an 8-4 mark in the conference. The Braves ended up tied with Haines in the standings, but the Glaciers Bears earned the second seed on the strength of a point differential tiebreaker.
Sitka beat Edgecumbe 48-42 Jan. 31 in a back-and-forth game that the Braves led 32-30 heading into the fourth quarter.
This time around, the Braves took control of the action in the early-going, with Green scoring 10 of his 20 point sin the first quarter. The Braves were up 16-10 after the first and led by 8 points four different times in the second, including at 26-18. It was the biggest lead of the game for either team.
The Wolves ended the first half on a 6-2 run that cut the Edgecumbe lead in half.
Sitka, trailing 28-24, came out strong to start the third. Potrzuski hit a three and after a bucket by Prince left the score 30-27, Romine scored on back-to-back possessions to put Sitka ahead 31-30.
It seemed like the game was about to turn for the Wolves. With 5:49 to play in the quarter, Potrzuski broke free, but missed a dunk that would have added to Sitka’s lead. And the Braves responded with a 5-0 run fueled by back-to-back buckets by Ford. It was back-and-forth for the rest of the quarter, but an Edgecumbe steal in the final seconds led to a Prince jumper that put the Braves back up 5 at 46-41. Prince dished to Ford on the first possession of the fourth quarter and Edgecumbe was up 48-41. And that’s when the Sitka push got started in earnest. Lee made it 48-45 on his first basket of the game and after a basket by Prince, Romine hit a three, then followed an Edgecumbe free throw with another three that tied the game at 51-51 with just over 4 minutes to play.
Sitka ended up outscoring Edgecumbe 18-10 in the final frame as they rallied and held on for the victory.
By this morning, both local coaches had turned their attention to the impending Southeast tournament, which opens Feb. 29 in Ketchikan. The Braves will face Petersburg, the six seed, in a game scheduled for 4:45 p.m. Wednesday. Petersburg is coached by Young’s cousin, Rick Brock. The Braves beat the Vikings handily the first night they played last month, then edged Petersburg on last-second free throw by Green to sweep the series.
“I feel good about where we’re at,” coach Young said. “I think we’re definitely playing better than we were last time we played them (Petersburg), but everybody gets better as the season goes on.”
“We’re going to take it one game at a time,” Young said. “You have to play well for three or four days.”
The Wolves, meanwhile, will have a long wait before playing their first tournament game. With a first-round bye, the Sitka boys won’t see the court until 3 p.m. Thursday, when they’ll face the winner of a game between Metlakatla and Craig. Both teams could be dangerous in the second round.
When Edgecumbe and Sitka met for the first time, the Wolves had not been tested in more than a month. But February was grueling for the Wolves. They traveled to Barrow to play two of the state’s best 3A teams, took on Thunder Mountain and played four road games in four nights against Wrangell and Craig. Lee said the Wolves have come out on the other side battle tested and ready to compete for Sitka High’s first Region V title in more than 10 years.
“Those experiences will serve us well,” Lee said.
Sitka’s seven seniors were honored in a brief ceremony before Wednesday’s game. Bae Widmier, Mik Potrzuski, Devan Romine, Hunter Lee, Clayton Stromquist, Josiah Hill and Aaron Ellingsen were joined on the court by their parents and received a round of applause from the crowd.
Edgecumbe seniors Jaylin Prince, Cody Sherman, Bryan Nick and Calvin Frankson were honored prior to the Braves final home game earlier this month.
After the Bridge Battle Wednesday, the boys conference standings are set heading into Region V play next week. The games this weekend between the Sitka High girls and Mt. Edgecumbe Lady Braves are the final games in the region this regular season.
Sitka High (11-1)
Sitka High (10-0)
Note: Edgecumbe can finish first, second or third depending on the outcome of the two games this weekend with Sitka High. Craig holds the tiebreaker over MEHS.