The girls from Unalakleet saw lots of friendly faces in the bleachers and lots of familiar faces on the basketball court Monday afternoon at Sullivan Arena, all of which helped the Wolf Pack survive the first round of the Class 2A state tournament.
Cheered on by several dozen villagers who made the trip to Anchorage, Unalakleet turned to a four-year starter to rally past Bristol Bay 43-36 and grab a spot in Tuesday's semifinals.
Also advancing were Craig, a 29-22 winner over Glennallen, and Metlakatla, a 63-42 winner over Nenana. Dillingham beat Point Hope 56-28 in the late game.
Unalakleet's Jonisha Wilson, one of three seniors who have been with the team since they were freshmen, scored six straight points to fuel her team's game-winning 9-0 run in the fourth quarter.
"The most important thing is we work as a team, and I love that," senior Roberta Walker said. "We've been playing together since we were little kids -- first, second, third grade.
"We reach goals every day. That's what teamwork's all about."
Wilson, Walker and Laurel Katchatag are the seniors who have been with the Wolf Pack since they were freshmen. Two other seniors are part of the crew too -- Brianna Katchatag, who transferred this school year from Togiak, and Season Haugen, who attended the Mt. Edgecumbe boarding school until last season, when she returned to Unalakleet so she could graduate with her friends.
The newcomers quickly became part of the family, Wilson said.
"It feels like they've been with us all four years," she said.
That familiarity helped Unalakleet survive a 19-2 run by Bristol Bay that covered portions of the second and third quarter.
The Angels scored the last eight points of the second quarter to forge a 19-19 halftime tie and opened the third quarter with a 9-2 spurt that put them ahead 28-21.
But the Wolf Pack didn't go away.
"They can weather those runs," Unalakleet coach Peter Johnsen said. "They don't get upset, and they don't get frustrated. Some of them have been together since they were freshmen, so they've developed a trust."
Unalakleet finished the quarter on a 9-2 run to tie it 30-30 going into the fourth quarter. Bristol Bay's Hannah Moorcroft scored 23 seconds into the quarter for a 32-30 lead, but Unalakleet roared back with nine straight points -- a free throw by Brianna Katchatag, a layup by Haugen and three straight baskets by Wilson, whose fast-break layup gave the Wolf Pack a 39-32 lead halfway through the quarter.
Bristol Bay finally answered when Promise Smith converted a rebound after the Angels missed six shots on the same possession. That made it 39-34 with 89 seconds left, but the Angels never came closer than five points the rest of the way.
Wilson finished with a game-high 18 points, Haugen added 11 and Walker nine. Brianna Katchtag grabbed a team-high nine rebounds, and Wilson and Walker each hauled down five.
Rylie Lyon's 15 points and Smith's 11 rebounds and five steals sparked Bristol Bay.
Lyon is a freshman and part of a young team, even though the Bristol Bay roster features five seniors. Two of them have never played before, including Smith. She is home-schooled and only became eligible this season because of changes to the Alaska School Activities Association rules that govern eligibility for home-schoolers.
Gabriella Hill is the other first-year senior. "I've been trying to talk her into playing since she was a freshman," coach Heath Lyon said.
Lyon said he has eight first-year players on his squad of 14, including four freshmen.
"This has been my funnest year, probably," said Lyon, who is in his 13th season as the girls coach. "Everyone's wanting to learn.
"I've been excited to go to practice every day."
Metlakatla 63, Nenana 42
Alecia Henderson made good use of her height advantage to help lift Metlatakla to a 63-42 triumph over Nenana.
Henderson, a 5-foot-10 senior who was a couple of inches taller than anyone on Nenana's team, blocked seven shots, grabbed 14 rebounds and poured in 23 points on 10 of 13 shooting.
Monica Hayward added 13 points for the MissChiefs, who built a 24-9 lead in the first quarter.
Henderson helped Metlakatla to a 45-26 rebounding advantage, an effort that included seven boards apiece from Holly Guthrie and Theresa Wellington.
Edna Standifer posted a double-double for Nenana with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Craig 29, Glennallen 22
Maggie Dinon and Marie Yates produced half of the rebounds and more than 75 percent of the points in Craig's 29-22 win over Glennallen.
Dinon, a senior guard, provided 12 points and nine rebounds. Yates, a junior forward, supplied 10 points and seven rebounds.
Craig never trailed, leading 9-2 after the first quarter and 17-10 at the half.
Lexus Martin's nine points and Hannah Heinbaugh's six rebounds led Glennallen.
Dillingham 56, Point Hope 28
Dillingham limited Point Hope to three baskets the entire first half to sail into the semifinals with a 56-28 victory.
Player-of-the-Year Drew Carlos pumped in 15 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked five shots for the Wolverines.
Tiera Schroeder tossed in a game-high 18 points and Kaley Rolf pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds for Dillingham. The Wolverines racked up 20 steals, with Rolf and Sydney Dray getting five apiece.
Dillingham led 39-13 after three quarters. Point Hope, which shot 17.6 percent in the first half, was held to five points in the first quarter, three in the second quarter and five in the third quarter.
Leading the Harpoonerettes were Helen Minx (7 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Erika Tippin (7 points).
Reach Beth Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By BETH BRAGG