3A girls: ACS, Galena, Barrow and Mt. Edgecumbe are in semis

Beth Bragg
Mt. Edgecumbe defeated Nikiski 49-39 to advance in the Girls 3A bracket during the March Madness Alaska state high school basketball tournament at the Sullivan Arena on Thursday, March 20, 2014. Bill Roth

Anchorage Christian got the victory, the Seward Seahawks got the moral victory, and for once, a state-tournament girls basketball game didn’t end in tears. Shock and awe, maybe. But no tears.

The ACS Lions, powered by Dallas Dickerson’s 28 points, claimed a semifinal spot in the Class 3A state tournameny by beating Seward 48-32 Thursday at Sullivan Arena in a game much closer than the final score.

ACS will take on Galena, which hung on for a 36-35 win over Bethel, in Friday’s semifinals. The other semifinal will pit defending champion Barrow against Mt. Edgecumbe.

Although ACS was never really in jeopardy of losing -- Dickerson made sure of that -- the Lions never really solved Seward’s zone defense. And that allowed the Seahawks to stay in the game against an opponent that beat them by 34 points earlier this season -- on Seward’s home court, no less.

The shock was that the game never turned into a blowout. ACS, which beat Seward 71-37 earlier this year, didn’t establish and keep a double-digit lead until the fourth quarter.

The awe was inspired by Dickerson, a senior who is approaching 2,000 points -- she needs 23 more and has two more games to get there.

She didn’t have her best game Thursday -- she was 1 of 7 from 3-point range and 11 of 29 overall. But Dickerson, who exudes confidence, overcame a slow start to provide not just points but inspiration for her team. Throughout the game, whether her shots were falling or not, Dickerson urged her teammates to keep their heads up, clapping for them, clenching her fists in encouragement, doling out praise.

“That’s my dad’s doing,” Dickerson said. “He told me to fire the whole team up, no matter what’s going on.”

She said she first heard that advice when she was a little girl. “And he still yells it from the bleachers,” she said.

Dickerson scored 13 third-quarter points in spectacular fashion. She soared over defenders to convert an offensive rebound and sink the ensuing free throw, she raced the length of the court for a reverse layup, she drove for a layup and again drew a foul and sank the free throw, she hit a shot from 18 feet out and she drained a 3-pointer.

“You’re not gonna hold someone like that to zero points,” Seward coach Mark Clemens said.

And yet Seward’s 3-2 zone frustrated the Lions, who shot 18 percent in the first half. Steals and defensive rebounds helped keep Seward in it.

“We never played that zone,” Seward junior Kiana Clemens said. “It’s something we sketched up in practice.

“It was definitely the factor of our game -- it made the game.”

ACS countered with a full-court press that caused many of Seward’s 22 turnovers and kept the Seahawks off-balance. Poor shooting also hurt Seward, which shot 28.6 percent. Only Ashley VonBorstol provided a outside threat -- she hit three of six 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 13 points.

ACS never led by double digits until midway through the third quarter, and only briefly. Not until Dickerson fed Hollie Duncan for a layup and a 37-26 lead with 5:20 left did the Lions go up by 10 or more for good.

“They beat us by (34) points in Seward, so to come back and hold them to the 10- or 11-point range...” Mark Clemens said.

“There are moral victories,” he added. “This brings us together more as a team. There’s more believing in me as a coach, and more believing in what we can do as a unit.”

Kiana Clemens wasn’t exactly buying into the moral victory part.

“You never feel good losing,” she said, “but we’re going into tomorrow’s game mentally strong.”

Galena 36, Bethel 35

Bethany Green scored what proved to be the winning basket, a 3-pointer with a little more than two minutes left, to lift Galena past Bethel 36-35.

Green finished with 13 points for the Hawks, who rallied from a 22-18 halftime deficit. Shaina Burley contributed eight rebounds, five assists and four steals.

Green’s 3-pointer gave Galena a 36-33 lead with 2:14 left. Bethel’s Angela Thomas made it 36-35 with a basket with 40 seconds left, but the Warriors missed two field goals and two free throws in the final seconds to absorb the loss.

Riana Joseph led all scorers with 15 points for Bethel.

Barrow 53, Valdez 40

Angela Miguel led the defending champion Barrow girls to a 53-40 triumph over Valdez.

Miguel, a senior guard, sank 11 of 13 free throws en route to a game-high 24 points. She accounted for five of Barrow’s 13 steals and handed out four assists.

Rose Hopson contributed a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.

Marian Wamsley led Valdez with 14 points and eight rebounds.

The Buccaneers hurt themselves at the foul line, hitting just half of their 16 free throws. Barrow netted 18 of 26.

Mt. Edgecume 49, Nikiski 39

Renata Olson poured in 18 points on 7 of 12 shooting to spearhead Mt. Edgecumbe’s 49-39 win over Nikiski.

The Braves shot 43 percent for the game and hit half of their first-quarter shots to grab an early 10-4 lead.

Taryn White supplied 12 points and seven rebounds for the Sitka boarding school.

Nikiski’s Rachel Thompson led all scorers with 21 points.