Anchorage — A blazing hot start ensured a triumphant finish for the Service boys basketball team Saturday at the Cougar Tipoff at Service High.
The Cougars picked up their third win in three days to win their own tournament for the third time in four seasons, knocking off defending Class 3A state champion Monroe 60-36.
Whether on offense or defense, Service (3-0) was nearly flawless, building a 19-4 first-quarter lead with the help of three 3-pointers from Amu Aukusitino.
"We were just ready to play," said Service's Adam Klie, who was named tournament's most valuable player. "Amu came out shooting amazing and so it was easy to build off that momentum."
Three Service seniors scored in double figures, with Aukusitino hitting for 11 of his game-high 17 points in the first quarter. Marques Robinson finished with 13 and Klie deposited 10.
Monroe (4-1), led by 14 points from sophomore Jalon McCullough, trailed 32-9 at intermission and was outscored 18-7 in the third quarter. The Rams started finding a rhythm toward the end, closing on a 20-10 fourth-quarter run, but the late success provided little consolation.
"Service, in my estimation, is the most talented team in the state," Monroe coach Frank Ostanik said. "We knew coming in that we were in for a tremendous challenge. If I have a disappointment, it's just that I would have hoped that we would have competed a little harder."
The 6-foot-1 Robinson and 6-3 Klie proved tough for Monroe to handle in the paint. With the lead at 24-6 midway through the second quarter, the duo saved three straight Service possessions by scoring on offensive rebounds. Two Robinson put-backs sandwiched around one from Klie made it 30-6.
"This team is designed to be quick and be able to really defend," said Service coach Tyler Moor. "Our defense was unbelievable in the first half."
Now in its 33rd year, the Cougar Tipoff is the longest running boys tournament in the state with no interuptions, said Moor, who played basketball for Service.
"I know what it means to these guys. They look forward to this," Moor said.
Monroe, with an enrollment of less than 200 students, was no match for Service, a school of more than 1,700, but the Rams showed last season they are capable of beating bigger Class 4A schools.
Saturday's loss was only the second in 30 games for the Rams. They went 24-1 during last season's championship run, suffering their only loss against eventual Class 4A champion Dimond.
Service was runner-up to Dimond in last season's Class 4A state tournament, losing a tightly contested final to the Lynx. Four of five starters are back, and the Cougars are in a motivated mood.
"I think hungry is a good word for it," said Klie, who missed a potential game-winning shot at the end of regulation in last season's state championship game. "We're really, really, really focused on getting that state championship, getting back to that game. This is just the beginning and we are really excited for the rest of the season."
Eagle River claimed third place with a 59-52 win over Palmer, sealing the win with Shaquan Rhoades' 11 points in the fourth quarter.
The Wolves led by one point after three quarters and outscored Palmer 22-16 in the final frame to cement the lead. Rhoades scored 11 of his 20 points in the quarter and scored eight of Eagle River's last nine points.
Connor Looney poured in 27 points for Palmer to lead all scorers.
In earlier games, Thunder Mountain slammed Ketchikan 63-47 in the consolation championship game and Seward topped Houston 38-27 in the seventh-place game.
Matt Seymour poured in 23 points for Thunder Mountain, which was 2-1 in the tournament. The Falcons took control early to lead 23-10 after one quarter.
Erwin Malabana's 10 points led Ketchikan.
Jeff Buchanan tossed in 13 points in Seward's victory, while Matt Barron led Houston with 10 points.
Reach Jeremy Peters at email@example.com or 257-4335.
All Tournament Team -- Adam Klie (MVP), Service; Scooter Bynum, Monroe, Shaquan Rhodes, Eagle River; Amu Aukusitino, Service; Tyler Wells, Monroe; Conner Looney, Palmer; Eric Roberts, Eagle River; Sam Jahn, Thunder Mountain; Brian Selmer, Palmer; Erwin Malabanan, Ketchikan; Kyllele Brown, Service.