Daily Sitka Sentinel

SHS Lady Wolves Fall Short in Title Game

A few hours after Saturday’s 3A girls state championship game in Anchorage, Sitka High coach Rich Krupa still wasn’t quite clear on some of the details.

The result was firm: the Galena Lady Hawks had rallied from down 5 points in the final 17 seconds of regulation to tie the game and won it 67-58 in overtime to claim their first state title in school history. 

But Krupa said the final 30 seconds in regulation were a blur. He wasn’t sure if there was a foul on the play that led to a key Sitka turnover, or if a travel had been committed. And he didn’t know why the officials did not grant a timeout after the game-tying shot went through the hoop for Galena with just under 2 seconds left. 

He plans to watch the tape of the game this week, but just how Galena managed to tie the game might remain a mystery.

Sometimes you have to get a little lucky, and in the final seconds of the fourth quarter it all broke just right for Galena. 

The Lady Hawks went on to control overtime and won a game that the Lady Wolves seemingly had in hand with less than 30 seconds left.

After scoring 31 points in the first three quarters as the Lady Wolves held state player of the year Jenna Buchanan to 9 points, Galena caught fire down the stretch, with 20 points in the fourth quarter and another 16 in the four-minute overtime. Buchanan scored the bucket that tied the game and ended up with 25 points and 11 boards.

“I don’t know what to say,” Krupa said, as 3A boys and girls players gathered at Sullivan Arena for the awards ceremony following the boys championship game Saturday. “I’m proud of my girls. We played our hearts out, we left it on the floor. We just lost.”

He added: “I told them to be proud of what they accomplished. This team, they have no reason to be upset... Little things didn’t go our way, but I’m not complaining. I hurt for the kids because of all the time they put in. We all wanted it bad.”

Senior center Sariah Ady, who led Sitka to a semifinals win over Anchorage Christian School and ended up double-double Saturday, said it was a tough loss to take.

“It’s disappointing because we’ve tried so hard for this,” she said. “It’s just one of those things. You can’t change it.”

Despite being upset with the loss, Ady, who wrapped up a stellar SHS career with a second straight selection to the all-tournament team, said she thinks the future is bright for the Lady Wolves. In four years as a 3A team, the Sitka girls have finished third at state three times and now have a second-place finish to add to their resume. Ady thinks the state championship trophy will eventually find its way back to Baranof Island.

“I know these girls will be back,” she said.

The Lady Wolves finished the season 25-5 overall, with just two losses to 3A schools. A Sitka girls team coached by Mike Hirai (his son Jarrett is an assistant under Krupa) and led by Karen Krupa (she’s married to the head coach) finished second in the 4A state tournament in 1989 and this season’s team now stands as one of the two best in school history.

“I still believe we’re the best team in the state, the ball just bounced funny,” Krupa said.

The SHS coach will move on without Ady and her fellow seniors, Katina Wathen, Karly Fuller, Kelsi Kubik and Hunter Huddlestun, but he had talented underclassmen on the roster this season, with more good players in the pipeline.

“I’m excited about the future,” Krupa said. “We have some gaps to fill, we’re not starting from scratch.”

He added: We’re getting closer and closer each year. We’ll be back.”

Krupa said he knew going into the game that Buchanan would get her points; the key was making sure one of Galena’s other players didn’t get too far into double digits. And Shania Burley’s 18 points ended up being the difference for Galena. The Lady Wolves held her to 8 points through three quarters and she had not scored in the fourth quarter as the Lady Wolves built a 51-46 lead in the final minute. 

Megan Reid scored a bucket on the block to put Sitka up 48-44, but a steal and bucket by Buchanan narrowed the game to 48-46. Then sophomore Kendall Phippen, a defensive specialist tasked with chasing Buchanan for long stretches of the game, made 3-4 from the free-throw line to put Sitka up by 5 with 28 seconds left.

Galena, though, was not finished. Burley launched a deep three that found its way into the basket for her first points of the fourth quarter and the Lady Hawks were down a bucket with 17 seconds left. After a Sitka turnover, Galena got the ball back, looking to tie the game. As the final seconds ticked down, Josephine George shot a jumper from the baseline that missed, but Buchanan got the rebound and put it back in to tie the game. It looked like the ball went through with about 2 seconds left and Reid quickly called for a timeout, but it was not awarded and the buzzer sounded with the score 51-51.

Initially, it seemed like the Lady Wolves had weathered the storm created by the amazing comeback. Ady opened the scoring in the extra frame and the Lady Wolves were up 53-51. But momentum, an unseen force that lingers like a ghost in big games, was with Galena.

Bethany Green and Burley hit back-to-back threes that put the Lady Hawks up for good at 57-55. Galena shot 10-12 from the free-throw line in overtime to ice the game, with Buchanan and Burley each going 4-4. 

Burley got 10 of her 18 in the final 5 minutes of the game.

Both teams shot extremely well from the line in the game. The first miss from the charity stripe came in the fourth quarter. Sitka was 19-22 from the line, while Galena shot 14-16 for the game. The Lady Wolves won the rebounding battle 34 to 26, but turned the ball over 27 times, compared to 11 for Galena. The official statistics for the game gave Galena credit for 30 points off turnovers.

There were 5 lead changes and four ties in a game that Sitka led 20-19 at the half and 34-31 after three quarters. 

Sidney Riggs had a team-high 14 points for Sitka, while Reid scored 12 and grabbed 6 boards. Ady had 10 points and 10 rebounds, Fuller chipped in 6 points, Kelsi Kubik had 5, Sophie Mudry scored 4, Wathen had 4 and Phippen ended up with 3.

Sitka played the game without senior Hunter Huddlestun, who blew out her knee late in Sitka’s 56-50 win over ACS in the semifinals Friday.

Krupa said his players were like daughters to him and that it would be hard to see the five seniors go.

The season opened with the Lady Wolves eyeing a second Region V title in three years. They also wanted to avoid the third-place game at state and play on center court for a 3A championship.

The SHS girls got agonizingly close to reaching the top of the mountain, continuing a steady climb that started in 2009, when they rallied from a semifinals loss to ACS to win the third-place game over Nikiski.

Now, the Lady Wolves have beaten ACS in back-to-back state games and they knocked out the defending champion Barrow Lady Whalers on their way Saturday’s championship game.

There’s just one final step for the program to take.

3A Girls All-Tournament Team

Sariah Ady, (SHS) Sidney Riggs (SHS), Megan Reid (SHS), Lynette Hepa (Barrow), Jenna Buchanan (Galena), Melissa Castle (Craig), Dallas Dickerson (ACS), Shania Burley (Galena), Kristin Smeaton (Dillingham), Sarah Geagle (ACS).

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