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HomeSportPrep Hoops: Falcons upset fourth-ranked West Valley in 4A boys state opener,...

Prep Hoops: Falcons upset fourth-ranked West Valley in 4A boys state opener, will join East, Service, Monroe in Final 4

Thunder Mountain’s Samuel Lockhart converts the winning and-1 bucket in overtime. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

Wednesday was not the last dance for the Thunder Mountain boys basketball team.

With the Juneau high school scheduled to be consolidated with the capital city’s other high school, this is the final season for the Falcons and their last chance to win a Class 4A state championship.

That dream looked cooked early in the fourth quarter as they trailed West Valley by 11 points, but the Falcons chipped away until they carved out a thrilling 53-51 overtime victory over the fourth-ranked Wolfpack in the state tournament quarterfinals.

Samuel Lockhart pumped in 28 points and all-state standout Thomas Baxter added nine points and gave his team its first lead of OT to highlight the upset win at the Alaska Airlines Center.

Lockhart was a difference maker down the stretch. He pumped in 12 of his team’s 16 points in the fourth quarter, converting an and-1, hitting a pretty spin move, knocking down a 3-pointer and making two free throws to give Thunder Mountain its first lead of the game at 46-44 with 41 seconds left in regulation.

ASAA/First National Bank Alaska
Class 4A Boys State Tournament
At Alaska Airlines
Wednesday
Quarterfinals

Thunder Mountain 53, #4 West Valley 51 OT
#1 East Anchorage 55, Palmer 36
#2 Service 55, Wasilla 41
#3 Monroe Catholic 53, #5 West Anchorage 43
Friday
Consolation

12:30pm Palmer (12-14) vs. #5 West Anchorage (18-10)
12:30pm #4 West Valley (21-5) vs. Wasilla (12-13)
Semifinals
6:15pm Thunder Mountain (20-9) vs. #2 Service (21-8)
7:45pm #1 East Anchorage (26-1) vs. #3 Monroe Catholic (21-5)
# ASR/Class 4A Coaches Poll rankings

In OT, Baxter hit a leaner off glass and Lockhart scored the final five points – two free throws along with another three-point play to put the Falcons ahead for good at 53-51 with 17 seconds left.

West Valley had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds but a deep 3 bounced off the backboard as the final horn sounded on its chances of earning a return trip to the state semifinals.

The Wolfpack had been in control most of the way, taking an early 18-7 lead and carrying a 27-22 lead into halftime. In the third quarter, they punished the Falcons in the post behind Leyton Nield (24 points) and Sawyer Petersen (9 points).

Back-to-back buckets from Nield followed by a layup from Petersen propelled West Valley’s 37-28 advantage. Nield then scored on an offensive rebound putback to make it 39-28. The Wolfpack were flexing their strength and length.

Thunder Mountain didn’t fold, though, getting a lift from Kasen Ludeman, who cashed in on back-to-back buckets to get the Falcons within 39-35.

Thunder Mountain’s Samuel Lockhart shoots over West Valley’s Jonah Bell. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

Lockhart hit four straight free throws to put the Falcons ahead 46-44 with 41 seconds left, but Nield swished a pair of foul shots at the 29-second mark to force OT.

Nield utilized his fabulous footwork to dominate the post and give the Wolfpack a 51-48 lead in OT. After Lockhart made two free throws and West Valley missed two free throws, the game stood 51-50 inside the final seconds.

Lockhart brought the ball up against tight defense, shook off contact on his way to the rim where he was bumped while kissing a shot off glass for the go-ahead points. He sank the free throw as a cherry on top, making him 9-for-10 at the line and getting his team into the final four.

THUNDER MOUNTAIN (53) – Nierra 0, Ribao 0, Guevarra 4, Saceda-Hurt 0, Gasga 2, Ludeman 8, Lockhart 28, Garcia 0, Ssanguni 0, Thomas 0, Polasky 2, Baxter 9.
WEST VALLEY (51) – Young 3, H.Nield 3, Miranda 6, Bell 6, Sims 0, Cromer 0, L.Nield 24, Geyer 0, Irish 0, Petersen 9, Bostwick 0, Endicott 0.
West Valley 12 15 12 7 5 – 51
Thunder Mountain 5 17 8 16 7 – 53

East Anchorage 55, Palmer 36

All-state junior Muhammed Sabally had 11 of his 15 points in the first half and the No. 1-ranked T-birds extended their winning streak to 17 games with a 55-36 victory over Palmer.

It wasn’t a walk in the park for East, which needed a 16-6 run in the third quarter to create some breathing room against the streaking Moose, who entered the state tournament playing their best basketball of the season.

Michael George added 12 points for the T-birds (26-1), including a drive and 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to push the lead to 50-29.

The biggest difference in the second half was East’s intensity as the defending state champions locked it down on both ends to double up Palmer 30-15 over the final 16 minutes.

Muhammed Sabally

Sabally’s post bucket stretched the lead to 32-23 and his layup made it 38-27. LaRon Roberts drilled a corner 3-pointer with 3 seconds left in the third quarter as East’s lead swelled to 41-27.

All-state senior Akeem Sulaiman had nine points and two blocked shots for East while Jal Tharjiath added six points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Palmer got 11 points from Logan Rolston, who also wowed the crowd in the fourth quarter with a chase-down blocked shot to wipe away a layup attempt. Nolan Garner added seven points, including a post bucket that got his team as close as 36-27.

The Moose got hot at just the right time of the season, a sign of a well-coached team, winning all three games at the Northern Lights Conference Tournament to claim the title and earn a shot at the top-ranked T-birds at state.

EAST (55) – Contreras 0, George 12, Johnson 2, Roberts 3, Delaney 0, Riek 1, Sulaiman 9, Ozuna 0, Carson 0, Sabally 15, Deng 6, Tharjiath 7.
PALMER (36) – Owen 5, Sheldon 3, McCann 0, Bullock 2, Rolston 11, Evans 3, Dean 0, Henry 2, Garner 7, Moore 3, Johnson 0, Nika 0.
East Anchorage 12 13 16 14 – 55
Palmer 11 10 6 9 – 36

Wasilla’s Gavin Morris drives to the hole. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

Service 55, Wasilla 41

Trailing at halftime, second-ranked Service unleashed a torrid third-quarter rally led by Toby Howard that carried the Cougars to a 55-41 victory in the quarterfinals.

Howard scored 11 straight points in the quarter and finished with 25 to go with eight rebounds. The 6-foot-7 All-CIC center made 7-of-14 field goals, including all three from downtown.

Service (21-8) won the battle of the boards 29-18, thanks largely to Howard and Marcus Kennedy (six rebounds).

With his team in need of a second-half spark after trailing 22-20 at halftime, Howard took over the third quarter. He got the party started with an offensive rebound putback before drilling back-to-back 3-pointers. Then he added a free throw and capped his one-man show with a pretty spin move left-hand finish.

Service’s Toby Howard was too good Wednesday. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

Logan Zadra buried consecutive 3s as Service’s lead ballooned to 39-27. Zadra finished 4-of-5 from deep for a dozen points.

Wasilla’s Gavin Morris hit a nice runner off glass to give the Warriors a 24-20 lead early in the third quarter before Howard put it into overdrive to lead the Cougars into the state semifinals.

Morris led Wasilla with 12 points and 10 rebounds while Noah Kroon added 10 points.

WASILLA (41) – Howard 0, Allen 0, Wagle 7, Kroon 10, Lusk 2, Pharr 2, Cox 0, Morris 12, Horton 8, Rogers 0, Fannon 0, Devine 0.
SERVICE (55) – Balmes 2, Henderson 6, Morgan 0, Dillard 0, Zadra 12, Tautua 2, Gracey 0, L.Lockard 3, Christophersen 0, T.Lockard 0, Kennedy 5, Howard 25.
Service 15 5 25 10 – 55
Wasilla 11 11 6 13 – 41

Wasilla’s Barak Wagle is closely defended by Service’s Kevan Henderson on an inbounds play. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

Monroe Catholic 53, West Anchorage 43

Armani Smith scored 19 points and converted a layup in pick-six fashion with 40 seconds left to seal third-ranked Monroe Catholic’s 53-43 win over fifth-ranked West in the late game.

Trailing 38-36 in the fourth quarter, the Rams closed on a 17-5 run to knock out the Eagles and punch a return ticket to the state semifinals. The Mid-Alaska Conference champions have now won eight straight.

After Jett McCullough’s two free throws put Monroe ahead 47-43, Smith picked off a pass at center court and outraced the defense for a layup in a dagger of a sequence.

McCullough poured in 18 points and Gavin Cortez added 10 points and six boards, including an offensive rebound putback that put the Rams ahead 44-38.

West All-CIC guard Des’Laone Cook scored 17 points, including a 3-pointer and two free throws that pulled the Eagles as close as 45-43 with under two minutes to play. Senior all-conference forward Mat Chuol added nine points.

Monroe Catholic’s Armani Smith puts it in reverse. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

The Eagles never looked in sync and struggled offensively, shooting 33% in the first half and 25% in the second half.

Credit Monroe’s patience and poise. The Rams put teams in a meat grinder, slowing turning the screws and making opponents outwork them. It rarely happens, especially in the postseason.

West is more talented, but Monroe is more disciplined. That efficiency was the difference down the stretch.

Both teams played hard as they matched buckets to tie the game at 32, 34, 36 and 38. There were some nice buckets in the run, with West’s Mat Chuol scoring on a beautiful back-to-the-basket turnaround jumper and Monroe’s McCullough finishing a nice give-and-go with Smith, who dropped a dime in the lane.

You know it was Monroe’s night after freshman Zavier Oleson’s and-1 free throw attempt missed but a West line violation let him have another shot, which bounced off the rim and was grabbed by Cortez, who scored on the putback to push the lead to 44-38.

Moments earlier, Cortez had been in the right place at the right time when he scored after a teammate’s blocked shot fell into his hands and he went in to score a layup.

MONROE (53) – Smith 19, Cortez 10, McCullough 18, Malamute 0, Snow 0, Mavencamp 0, Trieglaff 0, Williams 4, Oleson 2, Washburn 0, Wentz 0, Bast 0.
WEST (43) – Mason 0, Alexander 0, Mikes 0, Cook 17, Tharjiath 2, Muehlenkamp 0, Hardman 2, Marial 6, Chuol 9, Shein 0, Atonio 2, Muon 4.
Monroe Catholic 13 12 7 21 – 53
West Anchorage 11 10 11 11 – 43

West’s Mat Chuol goes up for a dunk attempt. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

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