A solid five minutes after the final buzzer sounded Saturday night, Tyler Henderson couldn't catch his breath.
Desmond King trembled nearby, his eyes red from many tears of joy.
"I can't even speak," King said. "Sorry about that, but I'm still in shock."
In a game featuring 15 lead changes and nine ties, the Metlakatla Chiefs found something extra late to extract a thrilling 49-45 victory over Unalaska in the Class 2A boys basketball state championship game at the Alaska Airlines Center.
The Chiefs, from the Annette Island village in Southeast Alaska, closed with a 9-0 run in the final 3 minutes, 46 seconds to win their first state title after a pair of second-place showings (2013 and 2017).
"Basketball is everything in the village, I can't even begin to tell you," Metlakatla coach Tony Scott said. "These kids worked so hard for so long to do something special for their community."
Metlakatla and Unalaska collided exactly 366 days earlier in the 2017 tournament semifinals. Metlakatla squeaked out 50-43 victory in that contest before bowing to Petersburg in the title tilt.
"I consider that game one of the best of that tournament," Scott said. "So you knew both teams would come into this one ready for a fight. It was clean, but so hard-fought."
Metlakatla junior Conrad Hudson (13 points, eight rebounds) gave the Chiefs a 46-45 lead with a pair of free throws with 1:34 remaining. Moments later, he forced a turnover in the lane.
That set up Henderson. With 57 ticks left, the senior laced in a 3-pointer from the right wing to close things out.
A few seconds later, he was heard happily shouting to his teammates, "no way I was missing that."
A few minutes later, he was dazed by the outcome. "I'm not even sure what's happening," Henderson said.
The first half provided an early indication of how evenly matched the teams were. They went to the locker rooms at halftime tied 20-20.
Metlakatla senior Danny Marsden (13 points, seven rebounds) gave the Chiefs a 20-17 edge with 1:14 remaining in the second quarter, but Unalaska junior Trevor Wilson (19 points in 32 minutes played) knotted things up with his second 3-pointer of the half.
The game seemed destined to be decided in the closing seconds. But Wilson said Unalaska (16-2) simply failed to execute.
"Metlakatla is really tough to play against and it played so well today," Wilson said. "In those final minutes we kind of struggled on offense and had that critical turnover.
"We'll just need to look ourselves in the mirror and use this experience to get better."
The loss was Unalaska's first in a state title game. The Raiders won 2A crowns in their other two appearances (1997 and 2016).
Marsden and Henderson combined for four of Metlakatla's six 3-pointers. The Chiefs (21-4) collected 27 rebounds to Unalaska's 20, and Metlakatla helped itself by making seven of eight free throws, while the Raiders missed all five of their attempts from the line.
King, one of four seniors in Metlakatla's starting lineup, finished with eight points, five assists and five rebounds. After being tongue-tied for a few seconds after the game, he was finally able to express what the championship means to the Chiefs.
"It means we finally get that ring," King said in full throat.
Unalakleet 66, Tok 55
Aidan Ivanoff and Arctic Ivanoff combined for 54 points to propel Unalakleet to third place with a 66-55 victory over Tok.
Aidan supplied 29 points and nine rebounds, and Arctic added 25 points.
Dennis Mitchell played a complete game with 20 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals to spark Tok.
Petersburg 51, Cordova 49
Petersburg relied on a dominating rebound effort to nip Cordova 51-49 in the fourth-place game.
Gunnar Payne piled up 12 points and 13 points for the Vikings, who also got 12 points from Thomas Durkin and 11 from Mark Neidiffer.
Cody Sjostedt pumped in 20 points for Cordova.
Class 2A all-tournament teams
Bridgett Oviok, Tikigaq
Drena Hayward, Metlakatla
Kaylyn Easterly, Wrangell
Gloria Jacobsen, Glennallen
Aquinnah Tremblay, Nenana
Hailey Wilson, Unalaska
Jordyn Lane, Tikigaq
Alexis Russell, Metlakatla
Helen Decker, Wrangell
Kendra Kapotak, Dillingham
Trevor Wilson, Unalaska
Danny Marsden, Metlakatla
Desmond King, Metlakatla
Arctic Ivanoff, Unalakleet
Cody Sjostedt, Cordova
Gunnar Payne, Petersburg
Dennis Mitchell, Tok
Carey Boston, Unalaska
Kaleb Hill, Bristol Bay
Conrad Hudson, Metlakatla