Tanana is a village in Alaska’s Interior, 130 miles from Fairbanks and home to less than 300 people. Perhaps known most notably for the History Channel’s “Yukon Men,” a reality-TV show highlighting how residents survive, Tanana may soon be on the radar for something else.
The Tanana Wolves (22-2 overall, 4-1 Golden Heart Conference) picked up a quarterfinal victory Thursday at the Class 1A state tournament, taking down the Sand Point Eagles (10-12 overall, 2-4 Aleutian Chain Conference) 86-47 courtesy of Malachi Bradley’s 17 points.
Bradley is a 14-year-old eighth-grader who averaged 24.2 points per game during the regular season and scored 32 points in Tanana’s 78-63 play-in victory Wednesday over Lumen Christi.
“I just stay confident and humble. I don’t worry about anybody or what they say,” Bradley said. “I just feel like nobody can stop me.”
The second-seeded Wolves are as young as they come, a 12-man squad with five eighth-graders and five freshmen.
The upstart Wolves have never won a state tournament and their only other tournament appearance this decade was last season, when they finished last.
Second-seeded Tanana is playing with a sense of urgency for its two seniors, Nathan Folger (16.5 ppg) and Juwan Moore (12.2 ppg). However, the future looks bright.
“It’s gonna be a rebuilding season next year, but my young, core group is really talented and they have lots of teamwork,” said Raymond Hyslop, the Class 1A Coach of the Year.
The Wolves ran circles around Sand Point with an uptempo offense that featured efficient outlet passing reminiscent of a quarterback connecting with a wide receiver.
Along with Bradley’s performance, Tanana was led by its captains. Folger poured in 24 points and Moore added 16.
The Wolves smothered the Eagles defensively and dominated the glass. Offensively, Tanana kept its foot on the gas, attacking the rim relentlessly and getting to the foul line.
“Our defense clicked today and we were making shots. We were locked in today,” Hyslop said. “We had a lot of sleep and rest — we were energized for this game.”
It was a one-sided affair even when Tanana brought in its reserves during the fourth quarter.
Sand Point was led by senior Karl Smith’s 24 points.
Nunamiut 83, Thorne Bay 49
The third-seeded Thorne Bay Wolverines were no match for Nunamiut.
The Amaguqs of Anaktuvuk Pass built an early lead to roll past Thorne Bay 83-49 in their quarterfinal game.
Darin Morry pumped in 24 points to lead Nunamuit, which led 75-33 after three quarters. Justice Nukapiyak was good for 18 points and Richard Gordon added 12. Morry and Nukapiyak combined for seven 3-pointers.
Jacob Congdon’s 16 points sparked Thorne Bay.
Nunamuit will play Tanana in Friday’s semifinals.
The other semifinal will feature the winners of Thursday’s late quarterfinal games between top-seeded King Cove against Noorvik and fourth-seeded Noatak and Shishmaref.
Shishmaref 58, Noatak 53
Shishmaref put on the shooting clinic to dethrone defending state champion Noatak 58-53.
The Northern Lights hit 26 of 43 of their field goals, an effort led by Fred Sinnock, who was 10 of 15 en route to 21 points. Edward Kokeok provided six assists and 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting, and Gabriel Stenek was good for 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Noatak, which trailed 35-31 at the half, got 20 points and 10 rebounds from Kenneth Walton and 14 points from Amos Sage.
King Cove 58, Noorvik
Jason Duarte’s double-double and a big fourth quarter propelled top-seeded King Cove past Noorvik 58-51.
Trailing 40-38 after the third quarter, King Cove seized control by outscoring the Bears 20-11 in the fourth quarter.
Duarte powered the winners with 25 points and 12 rebounds. He hit eight of 18 shots from the field and all seven of his free throws. Adding 11 points apiece were Gary Gould and Graydon Severin.
Noorvik’s Benjamin Sampson led all scorers with 28 points. He hit 11 of 22 shots from the field.
ASAA/March Madness Alaska
Tanana 86, Sand Point 47
Nunamuit 83, Thorne Bay 49
Shishmaref 58, Noatak 53
King Cove 58, Noorvik 51
11 a.m. — Sand Point vs. Thorne Bay
12:30 p.m. — Noatak vs. Noorvik
6:30 p.m. — Tanana vs. Nunamuit
8 p.m. — Shishmaref vs. King Cove