So far for the Service Cougars, the Class 4A state basketball tournament has been like a week during the regular season. Except in this case, two straight wins over Cook Inlet Conference rivals have put the Cougars in the state championship game.
Where they will play another CIC team.
The Cougars got past West 63-54 in Friday’s semifinals at Sullivan Arena, the day after they disposed of Dimond. Next up for Service is East, which outlasted Colony 62-61 in Friday’s other semifinal to make it an all-Anchorage championship game.
All the games against CIC opponents may seem like business as usual for the Cougars, but it doesn’t feel like it, senior Marques Robinson said.
“The intensity level was amazing,” he said. “The game was close, we battled back and forth, and both teams came to play.
“Everybody knew it was a state game.”
Service had a hard time shaking West. It was a five-point game with three minutes left but Robinson and Amu Aukusitino combined for their team’s final 12 points to keep the Eagles at bay.
The Cougars lost in overtime to Dimond in last year’s finale, so they are a hungry bunch. Especially the six seniors, who have played together on travel teams and YMCA teams since they were 7th graders.
“Last year we got to the championship game and came up a little short,” Robinson said. “This is our time. We don’t have another year.”
West made Service work for the win, leading 12-11 after one quarter and 23-20 as halftime neared. But Service scored eight unanswered points in the final 1:42 of the half to grab a 28-23 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, the Cougars went nearly four minutes without scoring to see a double-digit lead shrink to four points. They got untracked with Robnson’s pretty jumper in the paint that triggered a 7-4 run during which Adam Klie showed why he’s the Class 4A Player of the Year. Klie stripped the ball from West’s Christian Nidoy and took it half the length of the court for a rim-rattling dunk.
Klie, who this week was also named the Gatorade Player of the Year for Alaska, finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Robinson and Aukusitino each pumped in 19 points for the Cougars. Service outrebounded West 42-31 and kept the Eagles off-balance with 10 steals.
Theo Oghide poured in 19 points and added eight rebounds for West, which got a double-double from Markiss Ailey (10 points, 10 rebounds) and 15 points from Deandre Wilson.
East 62, Colony 61
Sophomore Desmond Johnson whiffed on his first chance to give East a sliver of breathing room in the final minute of a one-possession game against Colony. He refused to do the same on his second chance.
“I said to myself, ‘Make it, make it, make it.’ That’s all that was going through my mind,’’ said Johnson, whose free throw with 41.3 seconds left made the difference in East’s one-point victory.
The free throw gave East a 62-59 edge and gave the Thunderbirds just enough cushion to survive Hunter Eisenhower’s driving layup that made it 62-61 with 10 seconds left.
East had another chance to pad the lead at the foul line, but Austin Huss missed his free throw and Eisenhower muscled in for the rebound. That gave the Knights one final hope with about seven seconds, but Joe Gray’s deep 3-point attempt at the buzzer fell way short.
East owned a 10-point lead entering the final quarter, but a 3-pointer by Gray in the opening seconds triggered a quick Colony comeback.
Four straight free throws by Eisenhower cut East’s lead to 61-59 with 1:22 left, prompting East to spread its offense and run time off the clock. The clock was down to 49 seconds when a foul by Eisenhower sent Johnson to the line for the first time.
He missed, and Eisenhower and Huss tied up the ball on the rebound. The possession arrow was in East’s favor, so the T-birds kept the ball, and this time Colony didn’t wait long to foul again. With 41.3 seconds left, Johnson was back at the line, where he made his first attempt. He missed his second and Colony got the rebound, but East’s defense didn’t allow the Knights a good look at the bucket until Eisenhower drove the baseline to create a shot.
Johnson finished with 14 points and five assists, his older brother Xavier scored a team-high 15 points and Travon Brackett added 11.
Colony crushed the T-birds on the glass, outrebounding them 37-19, thanks largely to Antonio Bush’s 16 rebounds. Eisenhower pumped in a game-high 26 points and Gray added 10.
East flourished behind the 3-point line, hitting 11 of 20. Xavier Johnson hit 3 of 5 from long range and Desmond Johnson, Brackett and Jarred Laws sank two apiece.
The Lathrop and Palmer boys each picked up consolation victories Friday, Lathrop torching Dimond 62-39 and Palmer surviving double overtime in a 62-57 win over Thunder Mountain.
Lathrop's win included a game-high 14 points from Gabriel Cunningham and 11-points apiece from Tremon Washington and Kyle Carlson. Dimond's Stanson Afoa came within one rebound of a double-double, scoring a team-high 11 points.
Brian Selmer led Palmer with 21 points and 10 rebounds, with Connor Looney depositing 15 points for the Moose, who scored six unanswered points to close the second extra frame.
Thunder Mountain's Ben Jahn went to the free-throw line 17 times, making seven foul shots on his way to a game-high 25 points.