Daily Sitka Sentinel
“The way I look at it, we played really good defense and they didn’t shoot the ball very well,” Young said today, as he chuckled slightly. “(And) we made eight free throws when it counted.”
The Braves shot 8-11 from the line in the fourth quarter and held Haines to a single bucket as MEHS came back to win 27-24 Thursday in the second round of the Region V tournament to earn their third straight trip to the 3A championship game. The Braves are the defending champs and will get a chance to defend their title this evening against Sitka High. It is the third meeting of the season for the crosstown rivals and the Braves come into today’s game looking for their first win over Sitka High in 2012.
The score from Thursday’s game is a bit misleading. It was not an ugly contest, more an exciting defensive struggle than a plodding offensive slog. The Braves jumped out to an 11-1 lead in the game, but things slowed down considerably when Haines coach Steve Fossman, himself a Southeast basketball veteran, switched to man-to-man defense. The Braves scored just one point the rest of the quarter and led 12-8 as Haines star Tyler Swinton, coming off a 32-point performance against Wrangell in the first round, started to heat up.
It was 12-10 Edgecumbe in the second quarter (Swinton had 7 of his team’s 10 points) when Young called for a four-corners offense. Edgecumbe was in foul trouble. Jaylin Prince had three fouls and fellow starters Dominique Hall and Cody Sherman had two each. Edgecumbe has a cohesive and talented starting five, but Young does not use his bench much. Hall and Prince are Edgecumbe’s biggest players and Young knew that he could not contest the lane against the 6’7’’ Swinton with his post players in foul trouble. The MEHS coach decided to see if Fossman would let him take a 12-10 lead into the half. With about 4 minutes to go in the second quarter, the Braves started to stall, passing the ball around the perimeter as the Haines defenders sat back at the three-point line. The Braves, with half a quarter to go, were playing for one shot. The Haines fans got a bit antsy as it became clear what MEHS was doing, but Young said he had no other choice. With his inside players in foul trouble, he wanted to shorten the game and prevent Swinton from exploiting his defense in the lane.
“I knew they would go inside,” Young said. “There was so much risk involved in that. I wanted to see if they would come out and guard us. If not, I would take the lead into the half.”
Haines took the lead for the first time in the third quarter at 16-15 and the Glaciers Bears were up 22-19 as the fourth quarter opened. Both teams continued to struggle to score and with 1:10 to go it was all tied up 24-24. Kacy Green, the junior point guard from Hooper Bay, made two clutch free throws with 57 seconds left that put Edgecumbe up 26-24.
Haines had three good chances to tie the game. Parker Schnabel missed the layup in the lane with 17 seconds to go, but Haines got the rebound and an Edgecumbe foul gave the Glacier Bears the ball back on the baseline underneath their basket. Tyler Swinton took the inbounds but the Glaciers Bears were unable to get a shot off and 7 seconds ran off the clock before an Edgecumbe foul. With 10 seonds left, Haines again had the ball on the baseline. This time, Justin Swinton was the inbounder. The Swinton brothers had combined for 49 points in Haines’ first-round win over Wrangell and this time around they nearly came up big again.
On the inbounds play, Justin Swinton lobbed the ball into his brother Tyler. Tyler Swinton went up for the ball in the air, caught it over the Edgecumbe defenders and missed from point-blank range. Swinton got his own rebound and missed again in the lane. The rebound was batted around and Prince made what may have been the play of the game for MEHS, diving after the loose ball. The senior from Kotlik came up with the ball and Edgecumbe had it back with 3.8 on the clock.
Leo Ford was fouled with 3 seconds left and made one of the two shots. Edgecumbe was up 27-24 and had the victory when Tyler Swinton’s halfcourt shot banged off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Kacy Green had 10 points for Edgecumbe. He shot 4-4 from the foul line in the fourth quarter. Prince had 9 points and 10 boards, including two or three clutch boards in the final minutes. Ford ended up with 5 points.
Swinton had 15 for Haines and Schnabel scored 4. Haines had just two points in the fourth quarter, on a bucket by Swinton.
Edgecumbe was held scoreless in the second quarter and Haines managed just two free throws in that frame. The two teams combined for just 51 points. The Braves outscored Haines 8-2 in the final quarter. All of the MEHS points came from the foul line.
Young, who played in Wrangell, said he and Calkins, who is a longtime Southeast coach, could not recall being part of such a low-scoring game. Young said he could remember a Region V boys game in the 1980s (he said he was in sixth or seventh grade at the time) that Kayhi won 17-12 over Juneau. After the game Thursday, Dave Maynard, who coached Ketchikan in that game, congratulated Young.
“He just said good game (and that) he liked how we were playing,” Young said.
The loss dropped Haines into the losers bracket, where they were set to face Craig this morning in an elimination game. The loser of the championship game this afternoon might have to go through Haines Saturday to earn a state bid.