The past fueled East while the present overwhelmed Lathrop in the first round of the boys Class 4A state basketball tournament Thursday at Sullivan Arena.
The T-birds' 60-55 win helped East redeem itself after losing to lower-seeded Eagle River in the first round of the Cook Inlet Conference tournament. At state, it was East doing the upsetting by beating the second-ranked Malemutes.
East will meet Service, winner of a 54-45 game over West Valley, in Friday's semifinal. The other semifinal will feature West, which downed Kodiak 44-37, and the Colony Knights, who beat Thunder Mountain 56-51 in overtime.
Despite its early elimination from the conference tournament, East's regular-season record was good enough to secure one of two at-large state berths based on Winning Percentage Index. The T-birds weren't going to squander their second chance with the same lackluster effort put forth against Eagle River two weeks ago, senior Matt Gwayi-Chore said.
"We didn't leave it all on the floor against Eagle River," he said.
The team's goal was simple against Lathrop.
"We just wanted to come out with a win," he said.
The pressure of state was Lathrop's undoing, head coach Milo Griffin said.
"Fear factor today killed us," he said. "Whoever handles the stress the best usually wins."
Griffin has a unique way of handling tense situations, a "stress stick." Throughout the entire game,
Lathrop's bench boss paced back and forth, never letting go of the wooden stick, and never once sitting down. He didn't even have an empty chair at the end of the row typically reserved for coaches.
Griffin said he holds the stick during every game.
"It just calms me down," he said.
Haney Jacobo showed his calmness when the East senior drained two bonus free throws with 30 seconds left to put the T-birds up 57-53 and, more importantly, make it a two-possession game.
Lathrop's Jaden Whiteside responded immediately with a lay in after running the length of the floor.
As precious seconds ticked off the clock, the Malemutes were forced to foul. East made just enough free throws -- three of six in the final 13 seconds -- to keep Lathrop two possessions away from tying or winning.
East opened the game on a 10-3 run, that's exactly the intensity head coach Jason Jno-Lewis wanted to see.
"Right away we sent the message," he said.
Jno-Lewis is hoping that energy will carry over into the semifinals.
"You want to ride that momentum," he said.
The early seven-point advantage was the largest of the game. A Lathrop 7-0 run evened the score at 10-10 after the first quarter and the T-birds took a 32-27 lead into the half.
Five quick points from Lathrop's Kyle Carlson made it 32-32 to start the second half. East never led by more than five points the rest of the game.
Carlson pumped in a game-high 28 points. Lathrop got 12 points from Terrell Ford and Whiteside added nine.
Jacobo paced East with 17 points and was one of three T-birds in double figures -- Gwayi-Chore had 16 and Eudy Gomez scored 13. East's Desmond Johnson led all players with 11 rebounds.
East's strong defensive effort keyed the win, Gwayi-Chore said.
"Defensively we tightened up a lot better than we did in the regular season," he said.
West 44, Kodiak 37
Eight different Eagles scored as top-ranked West held off No. 8 Kodiak 44-37. Robert Gross led West with 11 points while Isa Wilson grabbed 10 rebounds.
Kodiak got 78 percent of its offense from Alec Canete-Hall (15 points) and Austin Frick (14).
The game stayed tight the whole way, with the largest lead, seven points, coming in the fourth quarter. Kodiak led 21-19 at the half and West held a 33-32 advantage after three quarters.
Colony 56, Thunder Mtn. 51, OT
Colony outscored Thunder Mountain 10-5 in overtime to earn an upset in the day's first 4A game.
Five of Bailey West's 11 points came in the extra period for Colony, which was paced by Damien Fulp and Graham Dinkel, who scored 16 points apiece.
Thunder Mountain's Jacob Calloway poured in a game-high 25 points while Ryan Lee added 11.
Service 54, West Valley 45
Service won it in the fourth quarter, outscoring West Valley 17-8 in the final eight minutes to earn a 54-45 victory.
Reece Robinson scored a game-high 17 points for theCougars, who got 11 from Ihro Raguindin.
Travon Brackett and Daniel Hornbuckle netted 14 apiece to lead West Valley.
Reach Mike Nesper at email@example.com or 257-4335
By MIKE NESPER