Tuesday night , I think fans may have witnessed the Cook Inlet Conference game of the week. AlaskaPreps.com 3rd ranked East Anchorage T-Birds and last year's State Champs Dimond Lynx, who are also ranked 4th by APC, went the distance in two over time thrillers. At half time the score was (29 -28) with the slight edge going to the Lynx. This game was an exchange of strength and weakness with size eventually giving way to speed. The evidence is the T-Birds (31-21) turnovers caused by Dimond's defense and having the edge (33-21) in rebounds.
In the third quarter the T-Birds get going early until the Lynx call time out with 5:31 left, score thirty seven to twenty nine and T-Birds lead. This game had seven lead changes and fives ties, didn't take long before the game is tied thirty-seven to thirty-seven with 5:16 left in the third. The T-birds begin to take command gaining a double digit lead with 3:36 in the quarter holding that until 1:12 when Lynx senior guard Damon Cikanek , hits a three giving new hope and energy to his team.
The buzzer sounds and the crowd erupts in jeer letting you know we have a ball game, score (43-40) T-Birds. The T-Birds score again scrambling for distance where they are led by sophomore guard Desmond Johnson 20 points, 5 assist and senior guard Jarred Laws 20 points 3 rebounds who contributed the first seven points of the fourth quarter. Senior guard Xavier Johnson 17 points, 8 rebounds and teammate senior forward Matthew Hardwick 10 points helped give a seven point lead to the T-birds with 1:55 left in the game (58-49).
That's when Mr. Ice in his veins, senior guard Damon Cikanek (31 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) again steps up. After a Lynx offensive rebound by senior forward Stan Afoa 16 points 10 rebounds the clock hits 1:14, pass out to Cikanek and he shoots a running left handed floater, score now 60-56 T-birds.
With T-birds in possession, senior guard Elijah Pili 11 points steps into the passing lane and goes coast to coast for a kiss off the glass score, lynx down two and lynx steal, score again with a tie game now .43 seconds left in regulation. Last minute save for T-birds by Laws goes in at buzzer, but called for a charge, overtime.
First overtime was like a game of volleyball, each team spiking a point back and forth. With 18 seconds left T-Birds call time out, up 70-67 after a pair of free-throws. Lynx inbound the ball frantically looking for an open look; senior guard Payton Lauwers comes to the rescue after being fouled on a desperation heave by T-Birds with .2 seconds left on the clock. T-Birds call time out after each free-throw hoping to freeze Lauwers, he hits each shot, overtime (70-70). Lauwers said "each time they called time out it energized me".
Second overtime with 2:33 left it is tied 74 to 74. The lynx go on an 8-0 run with .43 seconds left. T-birds hit two free throws but the game ends with an 83-76 Lynx win. This game came down to free-throws with a cumulative of 23 shot in overtime. Cikanek was asked his mentality in overtime after scoring 6 of his 31 says "Coach told me to be more aggressive". I expect to see both these teams build more steam as we look forward to the Cook Inlet Regional Tournament.
Upset in East Anchorage
Going into this game I would not have thought the AlaskaPreps.com 11th ranked West High Eagles would compete and win against 3rd ranked East High T-Birds; however, that's why they play the game. Thursday night the Eagles proved me wrong. Right out of the gate the Eagles used a 2 1 2 zone defense to slow the T-Birds from their patented transition and dribble penetration game.
The first quarter was a bird fight with each team connecting after ball reversals on every half court possession. The quarter ends 12 to 16 with a West lead.
Second quarter T-Birds make some adjustments to this stifling zone tying the game (21-21) with3:01 left in the quarter. Second quarter ends with a three point advantage for Eagles, after T-birds sophomore guard Desmond Johnson kisses a lefty off the glass (27-30).
In the third quarter both these birds were powerful, scoring 18 to 15. Senior guard Xavier Johnson with 18 points scored 16 of his points in the second half scoring eleven in the fourth. Sr. F Austin Huss, 11 points hits 2 with 1:14 left in the 3rd period (43-48) West lead.
The fourth begins with the Eagles leading 48 to 44. Eagle's senior guard Christian Nidoy hits a three, followed directly by two more points by the Eagles, giving them the biggest lead thus far with 7:07 left in the game (53-44). The atmosphere at this point is electric, T-bird fans stomping in unison as Eagle fans chant in chorus.
Leading the Eagles in scoring was junior forward Theo Oghide with 17 points, 14 rebounds and junior forward Joe Riley 14 points, 10 rebounds. The Eagles are up eleven (55-44) with 4:16 left in the game until the T-birds go on a run. X. Johnson hits a three with 2:21 left, T-Birds down five (57-52). Four point lead as T-Birds connect on X. Johnson's three point play with 1:56 left in the game. T-Birds force an Eagle turn over, senior Matthew Hardwick with an offensive rebound, scores (59-57) now 1:28 left. West ball, 1:23 and counting, senior guard Markus Ailey Kitchens is called for a travel. De André Wilson commits a loose ball foul on sophomore guard D. Johnson, who hits one of two.
The crowd is energized; some fans are in a panic and others motivated as Eagles take the ball out with .48 seconds left (59-58). Pressure defense by the T-birds causes a steal, quick score by X. Johnson and now the T-Birds claim their first lead of the game (60-59) with 34.8 seconds remaining. West ball out of bounds, pressure by the T-Birds creates yet another turnover, as the Eagles tip toed the sideline out of bounds. T-Birds ball with 21.3 seconds left, Eagles foul immediately. D. Johnson is on the line but misses, ball to the Eagles. The Eagles bring the ball up, lose control and Wilson grabs it and is fouled with 8.6 seconds left.
Cool as cool can be, junior guard DeAndre Wilson hits both free-throws putting the game away (61-60). A heroic effort by the T-Birds; however, time would run out and the Eagles upset them. D.Wilson, whose mere 4 points came in the fourth quarter, came up big for the Eagles. Wilson said," I haven't been in that type situation, but you step to the line with no pressure, it's just like you being in the gym, by yourself shooting free-throws".