All season, the girls on the Point Hope basketball team have been told to shoot the ball when they feel like they have a good look at the hoop, so Amanda Sage didn't hesitate to fire a 3-pointer from the right wing with her team trailing by two and 56 seconds left in Wednesday's Class 2A championship game at the Sullivan Arena.
"I felt it," she said.
When the high-arching shot fell in it gave Point Hope its first lead since the game's first minute and put the Harpoonerettes on their way to a 47-45 win over Cook Inlet Academy.
Sage's big shot put Point Hope up 46-45, and Sage tacked on the game's final point when she sank the first half of a one-and-one with 5.6 seconds remaining.
Sage finished with a game-high 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting, burying 3 of 7 shots from beyond the arc. Jasmine and Chelsea Tooyak each added nine points to help Point Hope win its third state title and first since 1998.
CIA, led by 11 points apiece from Nicole Moffis and Meghan Powers, was making its first championship appearance. The Eagles had one last chance to win the game, when Keely Powers (two points) let fly with a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but the shot sailed long from the right sideline to end the game.
Powers, a senior team captain, also missed a potential game-tying free throw with 33.5 seconds left. Despite the disappointing finish, Powers said the intense game was fun.
"You win some, you lose some," she said. "We just needed to get a little more pumped up."
The way the game started, it looked as though CIA might run away with a win. The Eagles opened on a 9-1 run and led 14-3 after one period.
The Harpoonerettes weren't panicking, said Point Hope coach Ramona Rock, because they have had to come from behind in several wins this season.
"It's easier to come from behind, than to maintain the lead," Rock said.
Strong defense has been the foundation for Point Hope all season, Rock said, and was the primary reason for the Harpoonerettes winning each of the last three periods Wednesday.
Of course, Sage's skillful shooting helped as well. It's a skill she said she learned from her older brother Adam Sage, who helped lead the Point Hope boys to a third straight state title last season.
"When he was younger, he used to bring me to the gym," she said. "He made it all the way from Seattle to watch me today."
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
Cook Inlet Academy (45) -- Davidson 3, N. Moffis 11, Bauder 8, K. Powers 2, M. Powers 11, Leaf 10.
Point Hope (47) -- Heather Minix 3, J. Tooyak 9, Long 2, Koenig 4, Helen Minix 4, Sage 16, C. Tooyak 9.
CIA 14 12 10 9 -- 45
Point Hope 3 14 15 15 -- 47Photos: State Basketball Championships
By JEREMY PETERS
Anchorage Daily News