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HomeSportPrep Hoops: West rallies from 17 down, but East pulls out 53-52...

Prep Hoops: West rallies from 17 down, but East pulls out 53-52 win; California’s Yessoufou and NYC’s Rawlins put on show in Shootout-like matchup at Alaska Airlines Classic

The battle of Anchorage came down to the wire Friday night and even though the finish featured an unlikely hero, the ending continued a trend as East beat West 53-52 in the semifinals of the Alaska Airlines Classic.

A crowd of 2,500 packed inside the city’s oldest high school at West to watch the city’s oldest rivalry and saw the T-birds continued their stranglehold in the series over the last five years, extending their winning streak against West to 17 games dating back to 2019.

Jal Tharjiath got East over the finish line, putting the top-ranked T-birds ahead 53-52 after he swished two free throws with 32 seconds left after getting fouled in the bonux 30 feet from the basket. Tharjiath finished with 10 points, including an NBA-range 3-pointer earlier.

East’s leading scorer Muhammed Sabally pumped in a team-high 19 points to go with five rebounds and five assists in another takeover performance.

Defending state champion East moved to 9-0, extended its 12-game winning streak and advanced to the Classic title game Saturday night against nationally ranked St. Joseph of California and its five-star recruit Tounde Yessoufou.

But West (8-2) made the T-birds work and sweat it out at the end, especially after erasing a 17-point lead with a fabulous comeback led by the 1-2 punch of Des’Laone Cook and Buob Marial.

Cook capped a 21-3 run with a deep 3-pointer to put the Eagles ahead 50-49 – their first lead since 2-0. That shot got the crowd on its feet, but the place really went wild moments later after Mat Chuol chased down Laron Roberts and blocked his layup off the backboard LeBron-style.

Alaska Airlines Classic
At West High School
Friday’s Results

West Valley 71, East Hall (GA) 61
Dimond 70, Bartlett 55
St. Joseph (CA) 66, Nazareth (NY) 59
East Anchorage 53, West Anchorage 52
Saturday’s Schedule
Title Game

7:30pm East Anchorage vs. St. Joseph (CA)
Third Place Game
6:00pm West Anchorage vs. Nazareth (NY)
Fourth Place Game
4:30pm West Valley vs. Dimond
Seventh Place Game
3:00pm East Hall (GA) vs. Bartlett
Tournament Leaders
Points

63 – Tounde Yessoufou SJ
43 – Marek Hajdukovich DIM
39 – Julius Price SJ
38 – Leyton Nield WV
36 – Halon Rawlins NAZ
32 – Muhammed Sabally EAST
31 – Michael George EAST
30 – Amelio Ambrosio DIM
30 – Jamarcus Harrison EH
30 – Sawyer Petersen WV
28 – Buob Marial WEST
Rebounds
18 – Tounde Yessoufou SJ
14 – Jal Tharjiath EAST
14 – Akeem Sulaiman EAST
14 – Javonte Walls DIM
13 – Abdul Bare SJ
12 – Lok Kulang BAR
11 – Leyton Nield WV
11 – Sawyer Petersen WV
11 – Marek Hajdukovich DIM
Assists
11 – Julius Price SJ
9 – Javonte Walls DIM
8 – Muhammed Sabally EAST
7 – Jamarcus Harrison EH
6 – Leyton Nield WV
6 – Sawyer Petersen WV
6 – Achilles Desmanagles NAZ

This game had everything from big plays to a broken tooth. West’s Aarion Alexander had his tooth knocked out, which was later found on the court and given to the scorer’s table for safe keeping. It happened early in the third quarter and a few minutes later he knocked down his first shot after losing his tooth to get West within 40-29.

East’s Michael George, a first-year starter who last night made four 3-pointers on his way to scoring 20 points, hit back-to-back triples to extend his team’s lead to 46-29.

It looked like Blowout City in Rage City. Marial had other plans as he spearheaded an incredible comeback by the Eagles.

The 6-foot senior guard who last month was named MVP of the Ketchikan tournament took over in the fourth quarter to show why he’s so valuable, scoring 15 of his 20 points down the stretch.

He canned a 3, scored on a leakout layup, hit a free throw, swished a step-back 3 and then dropped in a tough leaner along the baseline with 58 seconds left that put West in front 52-51.

Jal Tharjiath

Enter Tharjiath.

The 6-foot-3 junior forward is a fierce rebounder, screen setter and occasionally has his number called on offense. He rides shotgun to Sabally, but with the game on the line and the fans screaming for him to miss, Tharjiath was unfazed and sank a pair of free throws like it was no biggie.

Except it was a big deal as the win gave East coach Chuck Martin his 11th victory at the Classic, tying former Heritage Christian, West and Dimond coach Brad Lauwers for second all-time in the tournament that dates back to 1989.

East Anchorage 19 8 19 7 – 53
West Anchorage 13 7 12 20 – 52

EAST – George 11, Johnson 2, Roberts 6, Delaney 0, Sulaiman 5, Ozuna 0, Sabally 19, Deng 0, Tharjiath 10.
WEST – Mason 0, Alexander 4, Mikes 0, Cook 12, Tharjiath 2, Hardman 3, Marial 20, Chuol 3, Atonio 3, Muon 8, Greene 0.

West’s Aarion Alexander. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

St. Joseph (CA) 66, Nazareth (NY) 59

He was shaky early, but Tounde Yessoufou was sensational late and delivered another banger of a performance with 30 points and 12 rebounds to lead the St. Joseph Knights to a 66-59 victory over the Nazareth Kingsmen in a star-studded Classic semifinal that looked more like a college contest.

It was like the Great Alaska Shootout came to the Alaska Airlines Classic as the game featured at least 10 future college players and pitted Power 5 conference locks in Yessoufou and Nazareth’s Halon Rawlins, who scored 27 points and drilled six 3-pointers.

Yessoufou is a 6-foot-5 junior with offers from Kansas, Arizona and Texas while Rawlins is a 6-foot-6 junior with offers from Oklahoma State, Seton Hall and Fordham.

They treated an Anchorage crowd of more than 2,000 to a preview of what they will see on TV in a few years with the elite players producing a back-and-forth score fest in different ways.

St. Joseph’s Tounde Yessoufou. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

Yessoufou gets his points at the rim whereas Rawlins has a silky-smooth jumper. They are both poetry in motion and a ton of fun to watch.

The skill set, talent and resumes of Yessoufou and Rawlins made this the most exciting big-ticket one-on-one matchup since the 2020 Classic title game between Trinity (NV) featuring future NBA player Daishen Nix and Dimond with Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year Isaiah Moses, a junior college All-American who now leads UC Riverside in scoring.

Early on, though, it was the Gunner Morinini Show. The 6-foot sophomore scored seven of St. Joseph’s first 21 points as the Knights – ranked No. 10 in all of California – built an early six-point lead.

Yessoufou looked tight early, missing four of his first five free throws and scoring only three points in the first quarter. Nazareth’s defense focused on stopping St. Joseph’s McDonald’s All-American candidate, which allowed a role player like Morinini to shine.

The Knights (18-2) are more than just one player and Julius Price – who is Robin to Yessoufou’s Batman – showed why he’s also a highly recruited player with offers from Washington and Minnesota. He hit a 3 to make it 16-9 and then assisted on three inside feeds to Yessoufou that seemed to get him going, highlighted by an alley-oop that Price placed perfectly for Yessoufou to slam down and lit up the crowd.

He wasn’t the only rim rocker.

Nazareth’s Tyler Francis. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

Nazareth’s 6-foot-7 Tyler Francis had a pair of dunks within a few moments of the third quarter, a breakaway one-hander and a ferocious two-handed hammer.

Funny enough, though, the biggest reactions from the crowd came on dunks that didn’t happen. Even the misses were highlights.

Meanwhile, Rawlins proved to be a true New York City playmaker as he masterfully maneuvered his way in traffic for mid-range pops and was bullish at the rim.

Halon Rawlins

Francis and Rawlins scored all 12 points during a run that got the Kingsmen (9-5) of Brooklyn with 54-50 and then Achilles Desmanagles made it a one-possession game with a pair of free throws with 2:45.

From there, Yessoufou did what he does: bully ball. He uses a mix of size, speed and power to explode into defenders to either make shots or get fouled. He scored St. Joseph’s final 10 points and ironed out his early free-throw troubles by drilling his final five.

St. Joseph (CA) 13 19 16 18 – 66
Nazareth (NY) 9 14 13 23 – 59

ST. JOSEPH – J.Price 11, M.Price 0, Morinini 11, Bare 0, Lowe 2, Cota 10, Yessoufou 30, Eyita 2.
NAZARETH – Jennings 1, Rogers 7, T.Francis 14, Roman 6, Rawlins 27, Witter 0, Desmanagles 4, Roberts 0, Delgado 0, K.Francis 0.

St. Joseph’s Julius Price. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

West Valley 71, East Hall (GA) 61

Leyton Nield poured in 16 of his game-high 26 points in a pivotal 24-12 run that carried West Valley of Fairbanks to a 71-61 victory over East Hall (GA) in first consolation.

One day after losing its first game of the season in overtime, the Wolfpack came out strong to build a 23-16 lead, with the final score coming from Liam Irish on a feed from Nield. He had four assists and forward Sawyer Petersen had five assists as West Valley had helpers on 13 of 28 field goals.

East Hall out of Gainesville, Ga., battled back to take a 29-27 edge at halftime after sharpshooter Chris Alford got on by hitting three straight 3-pointers. One day after going scoreless in a loss to East Anchorage, Alford looked to find his rhythm, and did with 16 points. He knocked down another 3 early in the third quarter to tie the game 32-32.

The back and forth third quarter featured three ties and three lead changes. It was Nield who turned the tide back to the Wolfpack. His 3-pointer put West Valley ahead for good and he kept it going, hitting a few 3s, a few free throws and a scoop on a drive.

One of his 3s beat the third-quarter buzzer.

Petersen was the only other West Valley (8-1) in double figures with 16 points to go with six rebounds. The Wolfpack got points from 10 different players.

In addition to Alford, Khalil Goss, Jamarcus Harrison and Braydon Langston recorded double digits for the Vikings (10-9).

Langston, just a freshman, stood tall with 10 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots. Langston had a steal and coast-to-coast layup to get East Hall within 14-12.

Moments later Langston’s block kickstarted the fast break which ended in a layup by Maddox Smith. On the next possession, Langston scored on an offensive putback. His assist on a Goss bucket gave the Vikings a 37-35 lead.

East Hall (GA) 12 17 14 18 – 61
West Valley 14 13 24 20 – 71

EAST HALL – Je.Harrison 0, Smith 2, Morrow 0, Jones 5, Buffington 0, Ja.Harrison 11, Alford 16, Crocker 3, Lara 2, Ausborn 0, Langston 10, Goss 12.
WEST VALLEY – H.Nield 6, Miranda 2, Bell 2, Sims 6, Cromer 4, L.Nield 26, Geyer 1, Irish 2, Petersen 16, Bostwick 0, Endicott 6.

Dimond 70, Bartlett 55

Marek Hajdukovich and Amelio Ambrosio proved to be an effective 1-2 offensive punch as they combined for 46 points to carry much of the load in a 70-55 consolation victory over the Bartlett Golden Bears.

Hajdukovich hauled in 25 points and Ambrosio scored 21 in addition to the two shooters combining for seven of the team’s eight 3-pointers. They also combined to score 26 of the team’s first 30 points.

Hajdukovich hit a 3 to give the Lynx the lead for good at 22-19 and then hit another 3 and drilled a tough leader off a pretty pivot post move to give his team a 30-22 edge at the break.

Javonte Walls was wonderful, bagging 13 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals in an effort every bit as good as the numbers. Walls and Hajdukovich (6 rebounds) combined for 15 of the team’s 25 rebounds as Bartlett dominated the Lynx on the glass.

Lok Kulang had 11 rebounds, Ayden James had six as the Golden Bears racked up 38 boards to fuel second-chance opportunities. It kept them in the game, which was closer than the score indicated.

Marquez Nevitte had 17 points to lead Bartlett (5-5), which had nine players reach the scoring column. Kulang just missed a double-double with nine points and Thalit Bayath added seven.

Bartlett kept fighting until the very end, getting a 3 from Antionio Drussell at the buzzer.

But in the end, it was too much Hajdukovich, Ambrosio and Walls as Dimond beat Bartlett for the 17th straight time dating back to 2016.

Bartlett 9 13 12 21 – 55
Dimond 19 11 23 17 – 70

BARTLETT – S.Drussell 0, Nevitte 17, Phichantharath 3, Jordan 6, Alexander 5, A.Drussell 4, Bayath 7, Kulang 9, James 2, Press 2.
DIMOND – Ambriosio 21, Taveras 0, Jav.Walls 13, Castro 2, Stovall 0, Hajdukovich 25, Wilson 0, Pederson 0, Odia 0, Young 6, Perry 0, Jae.Walls 0.

Additional Article Sponsors:Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO’s | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose’s Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie – Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla SlatonBarker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited |

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