Daily Sitka Sentinel
The Lady Wolves faced Craig in a rematch of the 2011 championship game and evened the score, winning 48-37 to finish off an undefeated conference season at 14-0.
The Wolves were also involved in a rematch of last year’s final. And they too got some revenge, knocking off local rival Mt. Edgecumbe 53-45 to finish the conference season 13-1.
The Wolves played what may have been their most complete game of the season against MEHS, with tough man-to-man defense and a disciplined offensive attack giving the SHS boys their third win of the season against the Braves.
It was the first time since 2007 that a 3A school won both the boys and girls titles at Region V, and the Wolves’ win was the first at regionals for a Sitka boys team since 2002. The Lady Wolves, playing in their fourth straight Region V title game, won their second regional crown in three years. Since dropping down to 3A, the Lady Wolves are 52-5 against conference opponents in four seasons.
After cutting down the nets at Kayhi Friday night, the Sitka teams did something that doesn’t come naturally, quietly rooting for Juneau-Douglas.
In the double elimination format at the Region V tournament, the traditional crossover game is not guaranteed. The schedule is packed with games and sometimes the 4A action spills over to Saturday night, robbing the 3A region champs of a chance to earn Southeast bragging rights.
And when the boys and girls from JDHS took the floor Friday night, the potential crossover games hinged on whether or not the Juneau teams could lock up the 4A titles right then and there. The JDHS girls beat Kayhi 35-20 and Crimson Bears knocked off Thunder Mountain 71-53 to set the table for the Sitka squads.
The crossover games are meaningless only in the strictest sense. The participants have won Region V titles and hope to avoid injury before state, but the games are usually hotly contested as the spotlight turns to a battle for regional supremacy and a piece of Southeast basketball history.
And Saturday night at Kayhi, the Wolves and Lady Wolves came up just a bit short.
The Lady Wolves fell behind early as Juneau’s Esra Siddeek stroked outside shots in the first quarter, scoring 8 of her 18 points to help put JDHS 12-8. The Juneau advantage grew to 20-12 in the second quarter, before a 7-0 run got the Lady Wolves right back into the game.
Leading 20-19, Juneau got a three from Siddeek at the halftime buzzer that put the Crimson Bears up 23-19.
Sitka held Juneau center Gabi Fenumiai to 5 points in the first half, but Fenumiai exploded in the final two quarters. She was virtually automatic from the block as she racked up 21 points in the second half to lead Juneau to a 50-44 victory.
Sitka made a run in the third, with Fenumiai on the bench with foul trouble.
The Lady Wolves scored 10 straight points, battling back from down 29-24 to go up 34-30.
The Lady Wolves led 34-33 to start the fourth quarter, but Juneau got two straight buckets to retake the lead at 38-34.
Freshman Sidney Riggs, who capped off a strong first season of varsity basketball with outstanding play at the tournament, answered with a three for Sitka, then hit a foul shot to tie the game 38-38.
Fenumiai, who dominated the final period, got the next 4 points, but Sitka rallied again and the Lady Wolves trailed 42-41 with 1:20 to play. Again, JDHS went inside to Fenumiai and this time the junior scored in the paint, got fouled and completed the three-point play to put the Crimson Bears up 45-41. It was 48-41 when Megan Reid hit a three with 11.3 seconds left that made the score 48-44. Sitka quickly fouled Sideek off the inbounds pass and with 9.8 seconds left the sharpshooter left the door open for Sitka with two misses from the line.
But Fenumiai grabbed the board off the second miss and sealed the game with another basket inside.
Sariah Ady led Sitka with 14 points, though Juneau held the Lady Wolves center scoreless in the fourth quarter. Riggs had 9 points, Reid got 8, Hunter Huddlestun scored 5 and Kelsi Kubik and Katina Wathen scored 4 each.
Reid grabbed 11 boards, while Ady had 9.
After the long ferry ride back from Ketchikan, SHS coach Rich Krupa said he wasn’t too disappointed with the loss to Juneau. The SHS girls were hurt by some costly turnovers – unofficial statistics had Sitka at 20 for the game, compared to 13 for JDHS – but played hard, and the game was great preparation for the state tournament, where the Lady Wolves face Barrow next week in the first round.
“I was very pleased with the girls,” Krupa said. “They played hard, didn’t give up. We knew Fenumiai would be tough. I think we got fatigued a little bit. It takes a lot to get around her, she did a great job.”
Despite being the top seed out of Southeast, the Lady Wolves will face the Lady Whalers in the first round at state. Sitka and Barrow may be the top two 3A girls team in the state, but they’ll meet in the first round at state after the Lady Whalers were upset by Dillingham at the Western Alaska regional tournament.
Sitka lost 46-36 to the defending state champs at a tournament in Barrow last month. It was Sitka’s only loss to a 3A team so far this year. The Lady Wolves are 23-4 overall.
Barrow is led by Lynette Hepa, a post player who is perhaps as big and as talented as Fenumiai.
“I know we can beat them (and) I think the girls believe we can beat them,” Krupa said. “We have to contain Hepa and play our game.”
The Lady Wolves earned the trip to the crossover game with a win over Craig in the 3A girls championship game Friday night. The Lady Wolves trailed 12-11 after the first quarter, but took the lead on a three-point play by Megan Reid to open the second quarter. A steal and jumper by Riggs to end the half put the Lady Wolves up 21-15.
The dagger for Sitka came at the end of the third quarter when Kubik nailed a three that put Sitka up 36-27. Sitka remained in control the rest of the way and won by 11 points. Reid ended up with 12 points, while Ady had 9 and 15 rebounds. Riggs had 9 points and 5 boards, Karly Fuller scored 7 and Kubik had 5.
Katina Wathen scored 4 points and grabbed 5 rebounds.
The Lady Wolves played a solid game defensively as they held Craig leading scorer Melissa Castle to 5 points. Castle hit a three in the first minute of the game, but got just one field goal after that as the Lady Wolves played man-to-man and rotated two or three defenders on the Craig slasher. Sophomore Kendall Phippen did a good job on Castle and Huddlestun also spent considerable time chasing the Lady Panthers best player.
Krupa said he would give his team the day off today to catch up on school work, with state tournament preparation to get going Tuesday.
After the Wolves won the Region V championship game, senior Mik Potrzuski made it clear that he wanted a shot at JDHS. Growing up playing Juneau in baseball and basketball, Potrzuski said he was disappointed when SHS dropped down to 3A. He knew it meant fewer shots to beat JDHS and coming into Saturday’s crossover game, the Wolves had not played Juneau since February, 2010.
“I don’t really like those guys,” Potrzuski said.
The Wolves hung tough with JDHS Saturday night. They led briefly in the first quarter and were down 23-22 at the half. But the SHS boys could not quite get over the hump in the final two quarters.
With speedy guards Lance Ibesate and Tony Yadao playing relentless man-to-man defense on the perimeter, JDHS kept the SHS offense off-balance. The Wolves mostly kept the Crimson Bears at bay with a 1-2-2 zone defense, but turnovers hampered the Sitka comeback attempts in the second half.
The Crimson Bears were up 38-32 in the final quarter when they decided to spread the floor against Sitka’s zone to run the clock down. The Wolves scored with 2:18 left to cut the Sitka lead to 40-36, but a baseline bucket by Evan Gross with 1:17 left sealed the game for Juneau at 42-36.
Ibesate ended up with 12 points and Yadao had 7.
Devan Romine, who had the unenviable task of handling the ball against the stingy Juneau guards, still managed 10 points. Mik Potrzuski got 9, while Bae Widmier and Shad Puletau had 5 each.
SHS coach Andy Lee said Sitka went into the game with two goals: play as many guys as possible and win the game.
Lee accomplished the first goal, with each of Sitka’s 12 players getting on the floor, and the Wolves got close on the second.
“I was real pleased with the effort,” Lee said. “I thought we controlled the pace and our patience carried over from the Mt. Edgecumbe game. It’s not very often that you see a Juneau team stalling to hold on at the end.”
More importantly than the outcome against JDHS, the Wolves played a team comparable to what they’ll see next week at state.
“I don’t think you can ask for better preparation,” Lee said. “Nobody will be bigger and nobody will be faster.”
The Wolves are set to face Nome in the first round at the state tournament, which opens in Anchorage March 15.
Lee said he has “good sources” in the coaching ranks around the state who will provide him with tape on the Nanooks, a perennial state tournament team that enters the 2012 event as the two seed from Western Alaska.
The Wolves booked their trip to the crossover game, and state, with a 53-45 win over Mt. Edgecumbe Friday night. The Wolves had a double digit late in the fourth quarter but a three at the buzzer by Edgecumbe’s Dominique Hall cut Sitka’s margin to 8 points.
The Wolves beat Edgecumbe in two regular season games at SHS, but both contests were tight and the Braves led in the fourth quarter both times.
This time, with the Braves looking for a second straight Region V title, the Wolves led from wire-to-wire.
If the Wolves have a weakness on offense, it’s the tendency to settle for outside shots, rather than utilizing their size advantage by pounding the ball inside to Potrzuski and senior forward Bae Widmier.
But the Wolves were patient offensively against the Braves, and built a 25-17 lead at the half.
Edgecumbe got within a bucket early in the third quarter, but the Wolves got the next five points to get back up 30-23.
Widmier put Sitka’s lead into double digits with a three at the end of the third quarter that left the score 43-32.
Sitka’s defense, solid all game, held steady in the fourth quarter as the Wolves put away the Braves.
Edgecumbe hurt Sitka with tough drives to the basket in their final regular season meeting last month, but the Wolves were much stingier on the perimeter this time around.
Potrzuski had 14 points to lead Sitka and Romine got 13. Widmier had 9 points and Jon De La Cruz and Hunter chipped in 6 each.
Kacy Green and Hall scored 13 each for MEHS and Jaylin Prince had 9. Leo Ford chipped in with 5, Cody Sherman had 4 and Grant Akaran scored 2.
Lee said the Wolves believe they can compete for a state title. The focus, of course, will be on beating Nome in the first round.
“We feel it’s within our reach,” Lee said. “I think what we did last year was the right approach, we want to take that same approach.”