The basketball game was tied, just 2.1 seconds remained, the Class 2A boys state championship hung in the balance and Elmer Armstrong was headed to the free-throw line Wednesday night inside Sullivan Arena.
"My legs were shaking,'' the senior guard from Noorvik confessed afterward.
From the waist up, though, Armstrong was serene, especially for a guy who had not been to the line all night.
"I'm a pretty good free-throw shooter, so I just stayed calm,'' Armstrong said.
Armstrong made both free throws, and once a desperation heave from beyond half-court by Scammon Bay's Hubba Jay Charlie slammed wide right off the backboard, Noorvik owned a 50-48 victory and another piece of hardwood hardware to add to its remarkable hoops history.
The Bears won their second Class 2A state championship, adding to their 2007 title, which came after six Class 1A titles in the 1990s and 2000s. In the last 27 seasons, the Bears have been in 11 championship games, winning eight of them.
Wednesday's game featured 15 lead changes and five ties in the second half alone. And after Noorvik hit a couple baskets in the opening sequences of the third quarter to cut Scammon Bay's lead to 26-24, the teams only once were separated by more than two points. That three-point lead for Scammon Bay, 35-32, bridged the third and fourth quarters but lasted only about 35 seconds.
"It was really intense,'' said Noorvik's Danny Wells, the Class 2A Player of the Year who led all scorers with 20 points. "There was a lot going on and the atmosphere was great, so it was a great championship game.''
Said Scammon Bay's Charlie, who led his team with 17 points: "It's hard to put into words.''
The first 31 minutes, 57.9 seconds of a 32-minute game featured back-and-forth battling. Noorvik raced to a 9-2 lead before Scammon Bay went on a 16-0 run bridging the first and second quarters to seize an 18-9 advantage. After Scammon Bay led 26-20 at intermission, Noorvik scored the first seven points of the second half to take a 27-26 lead.
After that, it was punch and counterpunch, punch and counterpunch.
Scammon Bay's Elliot Kaganak hit a lay-up with 1:03 left to forge a 48-48 tie, and Noorvik had possession and in-bounded the ball with 48.9 seconds left. The Bears looked for one final shot. The ball ended up in Wells' hands well above the top of the key with about 10 seconds to go. The Blackbirds had him double-teamed as he drifted to his left.
"I looked and there was about seven seconds left, and then I saw my teammate cutting,'' Wells said. "I passed it to him with confidence because he's one of the best free-throw shooters on the team.''
Scammon Bay, Charlie said, was intent on "just trying to defend as well as you can and don't let them shoot the ball.''
As Armstrong collected Wells' pass in the lane and drove to the basket, he was fouled by Justin Ulak, which earned Armstrong two free throws.
Scammon Bay called timeout before Armstrong's first shot. He swished it for a 49-48 Noorvik lead. Scammon Bay called timeout again. Armstrong's second free throw hit the back of the rim, bounced softly up and fell through for a 50-48 lead.
That capped Noorvik's 13 of 19 shooting from the free-throw line. Scammon Bay hit just 4 of 13 free throws.
The Blackbirds, who also received 11 points from Chance Hunter, inbounded from the end line and got the ball to Charlie, who launched a 55-foot prayer.
"I checked to see how straight it was,'' Wells recounted. "I saw it was crooked, and I just put my hands in the air because I knew it was going to miss.''
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Scammon Bay (48) -- J. Ulak 8, Sundown 2, Hunter 11, J. Aguchak 2, S. Kaganak 4, E. Kaganak 4, Charlie 17.
Noorvik (50) -- Armstrong III 8, Hankinson 8, Tebbits 6, Wells 20, Ballot Jr. 2, Smith 6.
Scammon Bay 14 12 9 13 -- 48
Noorvik 9 11 12 18 -- 50PHOTOS: State Basketball Championships
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News