3A girls: Team effort lifts ACS to state crown

Beth Bragg
Anchorage Christian's Hollie Duncan, right, shoots over Edgecumbe's Brittany Akaran during their Division 3A girls' high school championship basketball game Saturday, March 22, 2014, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)
Michael Dinneen
Mount Edgecumbe's Torrie Thomas, right, leads the bench in exhorting her teammates in the last minute of the girls' Division 3A championship game against Anchorage Christian on Saturday, March 22, 2014, in Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage Christian won the game. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)
Michael Dinneen
Anchorage Christian's Dallas Dickerson (11) celebrates her team's victory over Mount Edgecumbe in the girls' Division 3A championship basketball game Saturday, March 22, 2014, in Anchorage, Alaska. Behind Dickerson are teammates Casie Warren and Hollie Duncan. AP Photo/Michael Dinneen
Mount Edgecumbe's Renata Olson, left, battles for the ball with Anchorage Christian's Hollie Duncan, top left, and Brynn Tennyson during their Division 3A girls' high school championship basketball game Saturday, March 22, 2014 in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)

Dallas Dickerson, the star of the Anchorage Christian girls basketball team, claimed the state championship she wanted so badly. And for that, she can thank her teammates.

Dickerson's skill and will keyed ACS's 49-45 squeaker over Mt. Edgecumbe in Saturday's title game of the Class 3A girls basketball tournament at Sullivan Arena.

But without significant contributions from a whole pride of Lions, Dickerson may have finished a glorious high school career as a two-time runner-up.

Tanner Ealum, the fastest thing on display in six days of March Madness Alaska, made her 4-foot-11 presence known in a big way. The sophomore sparked a second-quarter comeback with 10 points and stopped a Mt. Edgecumbe run in the third quarter by racing three-quarters the length of the court, making a couple of Braves look like they were standing still on her way to a tide-stemming layup.

"I don't think a jaguar could beat her," Dickerson said.

Michelle Coderre, one of seven ACS seniors, buried a big 3-pointer right after Ealum's high-speed layup to further thwart the Braves. Hollie Duncan, Bryn Tennyson and Madison Ealum scored timely baskets in a game in which every basket proved pivotal. And Casie Warren grabbed eight rebounds against a Mt. Edgecumbe team that outrebounded ACS 32-26.

"We all work together," Warren said.

In the end though, it was Dickerson to the rescue.

After Joallyn Johnson missed the front end of a bonus shot with 9.6 seconds left, Warren grappled for the rebound and passed the ball to Dickerson, who drew a foul after being mobbed by Braves.

Dickerson, who played the entire second half with three fouls and picked up her fourth with a minute left in the third quarter, strode almost angrily to the foul line, her face etched by intensity. After she sank the first of two free throws, a clearly relieved and elated Madison Ealum went to the line to shake Dickerson's hand. Dickerson made the second free throw and then put an exclamation point on the game, and her career, by stealing a pass at midcourt as time ran out.

"She hit that first free throw and I took a deep breath," Warren said. "We finally did it this year."

Mt. Edgecombe never relented, even when the Lions, nursing a four-point lead, spread the floor and took a minute off the clock. The stall worked in terms of milking time, but ACS couldn't cash in when it tried penetrating for a bucket or a foul. Taryn White got the rebound for Mt. Edgecumbe and Renata Olson scored a layup as she was falling to the floor. With three minutes left, ACS led 45-43.

"They gave us the game of our lives," said Dickerson, whose team lost three times this year -- once to Class 4A power Kodiak and twice to Outside teams.

Two free throws by Dickerson restored the four-point lead and ACS spread the floor again, with similar results -- nearly 90 seconds off the clock, a missed shot, a Mt. Edgecumbe rebound and a tough shot in the paint by Brittany Akaran, making it 47-45 with 1:21 left.

Both teams had chances after that, either via turnovers or free throw attempts, but ACS hung on despite getting outscored 14-6 in the final eight minutes.

"I'm extremely proud of my girls," Mt. Edgecumbe coach Dane Vincent said. "This was a close as anybody has come to ACS this season. We just missed some shots. And they're a good ball club. I thought we did a good job of handling them."

Vincent came to Mt. Edgecumbe, a boarding school in Sitka, after 13 years in Wrangell. He coaches kids from all over the state -- White, a 5-foot-10 center who had a game-high 23 points and 14 rebounds, five steals and two blocks, is from Hoonah. Akaran (5 points, 4 rebounds) and Johnson (2 steals) are from Kotlik. Olson (6 points) is from Golovin.

The Braves put ACS in foul trouble almost immediately. By halftime, Dickerson and two others had three fouls and two others had two fouls. But the Braves didn't capitalize -- they were 14 of 22 from the line that half and 16 of 26 for the game.

Dickerson picked up her fourth foul with a minute left in the third quarter and spent the final 60 seconds on the bench. She stayed on the bench for about the first 90 seconds of the fourth quarter but once she returned, she didn't leave.

"That fourth foul sent me on a flashback to last year, when in a crucial moment I got my fourth foul," Dickerson said, talking about last season's championship-game loss to Barrow.

A year ago, she sat out for about five minutes and watched ACS fall behind. This time she sat for less than two minutes and came back on a mission.

"I came to the bench and they said, 'We believe in you, we got this, let's get this,' '' she said.

Because of the foul trouble, the game turned into a bit of a chess match for ACS coach Karen Tollefson, who used eight players and had to deal with Dickerson being in jeopardy. It was Tollefson's third game as the team's head coach -- she had been an assistant until former head coach Darrin Powers was fired after ACS won the regional tournament two weeks ago.

"There's complete trust," Dickerson said. "She has been here with us since we were freshmen and we had no more than the fullest trust in her. When she started subbing, she looked at me and said, 'I've got this,' and I said, 'I believe you.' "

Third place

Barrow 41, Galena 35

Barrow, the defending state champions, claimed third place by holding off Galena 41-35.

Angela Miguel hit 8 of 11 free throws while scoring a game-high 18 points for the Whalers. She added seven rebounds, six steals and four assists.

Rose Hopson was one point shy of a double-double for Barrow, tallying 11 rebounds and nine points.

Shaina Burley's 17 points and seven rebounds led Galena.

Fourth place

Valdez 38, Seward 30

Rachel McDonald hit three 3-pointers to help Valdez stop Seward 38-30 in the game for fourth place.

McDonald's 11 points led the Buccaneers. Marian Wamsley hit all four of her free throws to help Valdez outscore Seward 7-2 at the foul line.

Seward was led by Ashley VonBorstol's 11 points and Laura Kromrey's 10.

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.