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As Saturday evening began, the East Anchorage T-Birds and the Eagles met for the second time. West won the last meeting, beating the T-Birds in an overtime win sealed by the free throws of junior guard Deandré Wilson. As the first quarter ends, the T-Birds claim an early lead maximizing on seven turnovers by the Eagles (17-6). Wilson is seemingly determined to have a repeat performance, scoring 15 of his 17 points in the second quarter. However, the Eagles get in early foul trouble, and Wilson has to sit.
The T-Birds take advantage of Wilson's absence and push the lead up. Leading the charge for the T-Birds is senior Austin Huss 24 points. Huss led all scorers, shooting eight for eight from the free throw line and contributing 15 points in the second quarter, helping give the T-Birds a commanding fifteen-point lead going into halftime (48-33). Fouls plague both teams but turnovers hurt the Eagles the most. The Eagles play without their scoring leader, junior forward Joe Riley. The Eagles' senior guard Markiss Ailey steps up in his place, scoring 11 points in the second half shooting 5-6 from the free throw line. In the third quarter, both teams use their talons defensively. The Eagles score 17-13 and drop the lead to nine after an offensive rebound with 9 seconds (61-50, T-Birds).
The crowd eagerly anticipates another fourth quarter dual, as chants became loud and boisterous between T-bird and Eagle fans. The T-Birds' sophomore guard Desmond Johnson 16 points, 4 assists and senior guard Jarred Laws 15 points, 3 assists balanced the scoring attack for the T-Birds, scoring 10 of the 17 points in the quarter. Laws steps up and delivers an assist for three, then hits two free-throws after a technical. With 7:00 left in the game, the T-Birds gain the biggest lead of the night, going up 66-50. With 3:57 left in regulation, with the Eagles down by nine, Johnson causes a turnover. At 2:49 on the clock, the T-Birds are up by 10. West controls the ball with 1:34 to go -- still down by ten points --they shoot but can't score. East's Johnson seals the deal with a nice bounce pass to senior forward Matt Hardwick (75-66). A three by the Eagles gives some hope with a little under a minute left, but an untimely turnover puts the ball in Laws' hands. He hits a mid-range jumper, hammering the nail into the coffin with 26 seconds. Final score reads 77-69, East Anchorage over West Anchorage.
The T-Birds survive a crucial game. Dimond Lynx beat Bartlett Bears, and so they both stay in contention with a record of 8-4. Both teams are in position to claim the second and third seed in the Cook Inlet Conference Regional tournament by winning out next week.
The South Anchorage Wolverines, Eagle River Wolves and West Anchorage Eagles began the night in a 3-way tie at 6-5. South beat Eagle River Saturday night, and both have beaten the Eagles. On Tuesday, the Wolverines (7-5) and the Eagles (6-6), compete in a rematch. Other key games Tuesday are Dimond (8-4) vs. Service (11-1), the Bartlett (2-12) vs. Chugiak (0-12) Eagle River (6-6) vs. East (8-4).
Thursday marks the end of the season. Based on Tuesday's results, some teams will have solidified their fate, but with the parity of the teams this season, the Cook Inlet Conference Tournament promises to be exciting this year.
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