Daily Sitka Sentinel
ANCHORAGE – There’s a lot of fight in the Mt. Edgecumbe High School Braves. If nothing else, the Braves are always competitive. But Mt. Edgecumbe senior Cody Sherman did not feel good about the way the Braves’ first-round state tournament game was going Thursday at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
“I kind of thought we were going to lose, to be honest,” Sherman said.
Sherman had good reason to be pessimistic. The athletic and talented Barrow Whalers were red hot, knocking down shots from all over the court as they jumped out to a 22-6 lead after the first quarter. The Whalers were a step ahead of the Braves, who seemed stunned as they fell behind by double digits in the blink of an eye. Even coach Archie Young thought his squad was headed for a first-round defeat.
“If you’re not thinking it might be over, you’re not being honest,” Young said.
Turns out it wasn’t over. The Braves rallied and beat Barrow 65-61 in overtime to advance to the semifinals tonight, where they’ll face the defending state champion Anchorage Christian School Lions. ACS features Gus Simmers, the state player of the year, and the Lions handed the Braves a first-round defeat in 2011 on their way to claiming the 3A title.
Young admitted that his state preparation was limited to Barrow, but he said he was looking forward to a shot at the Lions.
“If you don’t want to play a team like that, something’s wrong,” Young said.
Young was beaming after the Braves’ win Thursday. “I’m just so proud of their effort,” he said.
And Sherman, who ended up with 20 points and 5 rebounds, said it felt great to get a win over a very good Barrow team. Fellow senior Jaylin Prince said things changed for the Braves at the end of the second quarter. They cut the Barrow lead to 9 and came out of the halftime break sensing they could get back into the game.
“We kind of ended the second half on a run and we stuck with that,” Prince said.
The Braves scored the first nine points of the third quarter to tie the game. From there, the game featured 10 ties and 10 lead changes as the crowd swelled at the 3A court to watch a hard-fought seesaw battle. It had appeared that the Braves were going to get run out of the gymnasium and into the losers bracket, but somehow the squad from Japonski Island was right back in the thick of things.
Leo Ford nailed a three that gave the Braves their first lead of the game at 34-32 with 4:35 left in the third. Barrow led 40-39 as the fourth quarter opened and the biggest lead of the final frame for either team came with 2:01 left as Sherman scored a three-point play to put MEHS up 54-50. Speedy Barrow point guard Colin Long came down and nailed a long three on the other end that cut the Edgecumbe lead to a point. Barrow tied the game 54-54 at the free throw line and Edgecumbe got the ball back for one last shot with 45 seconds left. MEHS played for one shot. As the final seconds ticked down, Kacy Green got to the lane and dished to Jaylin Prince on the block. But Eddie Benson swatted Prince’s shot away and sent the game to overtime.
From there, the Braves won the game at the free throw line, making 9-12 in the extra frame to earn the victory. Long did his best to keep the Whalers in the game. A bucket by Long with 16 seconds left made the score 62-61, but Green sank two clutch-free throws to extend the Edgecumbe lead to 64-61. Then Sherman closed it out, stealing a Barrow inbounds pass with 7 seconds left. Sherman soared to grab the ball, got fouled and made a free throw to put the game out of reach at 65-61.
Prince had 16 and 5 boards and Dominique Hall had 15 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Ford and Green each scored 7 points.
Long had 19 points and 5 assists for the Whalers, while Benson scored 19 and grabbed 6 boards. Eben Olemaun added 12 points for Barrow.
Coach Young said the Braves shot about 63 percent from the free throw line during the season, but the Braves were 16-22 Thursday, which came to 73 percent. The Braves turned the ball over only 13 times, compared to 18 for Barrow.