It was a coronation 45 years in the making.
The Ketchikan Kings reclaimed their place atop Alaska boys basketball Saturday night by winning their first state crown since the single-classification days of 1974.
Ketchikan senior Robert Hilton-Seludo grabbed a third-chance rebound and put it back for the final points with four seconds remaining in overtime Saturday to lead the Kings past Dimond 57-53 in the Class 4A championship game.
Moments later, the deal was done and the greatest kind of sports mayhem ensued inside a nearly-packed Alaska Airlines Center.
Once the final buzzer sounded on Ketchikan’s scintillating come-from-behind victory over tournament-tested and higher-seeded Dimond, each member of the winning team shot across the court for a group mob.
Then the Kings (23-8 overall) dispersed to all areas of the court, looking for anybody and everybody wearing gear representing the Southeast Alaska city of some 8,200 residents.
The Kings, the eighth-seeded team in the eight-team tournament, wanted to make sure to spread the love. They popped jerseys and pointed fingers toward those they adored.
“I can’t really explain what all happened,” said junior Chris Lee, who turned in a 28-point, 10-rebound performance that included a huge basket at the end of the first half. “But our parents probably put up $800 to $1,000 to fly here just to watch us. We didn’t want to lose for them.”
Senior Marcus Lee, Chris’ older brother, finished with 14 points and six assists. Chris Lee’s evening included a buzzer-beating, long-range 3-pointer at the end of the first half that shrank the deficit to singe digits, 31-23, and seemed to shift the momentum. It was the second time Lee made such an improbable shot this season.
“The first game against the defending state champs (Wasilla) down in Ketchikan,” he said. “I wasn’t very surprised because we know we can make shots. I just wanted to make a play for my team.”
Down 31-16 late in the first half, Ketchikan (23-8 overall) scored 41 of the game’s final 60 points to win its seventh state championship. And get this: those previous wins came in 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1974.
“The (1974) banner was the only one we saw in our gym, the only one we kept our eye on,” Chris Lee said. “We thought about this all year, and it feels great to bring this back to the community.”
The game was tied 50-50 at the end of regulation. Kings junior Kristian Pihl hit the first field goal of the four-minute overtime, a 3-pointer from the left wing, with 44.2 seconds remaining. Pihl’s triple, his only basket in seven attempts from deep territory, gave Ketchikan a 53-50 lead and ended more than six minutes of scoreless basketball, a stretch going back to the fourth quarter.
Pihl was still trembling when he talked about his big shot, Ketchikan’s tournament seeding and the significance of 1974.
“I hadn’t made any and knew that one was probably my last shot, I had to make it,” Pihl said.
“We thought the seeding didn’t really work in our favor, and the year we last won, what more motivation did we need?”
Dimond, in the title game for the fourth consecutive year and the No. 3 seed, didn’t score a point for the final 7:02 of play.
Winners of the 2017 title, the Lynx (23-4) have now finished second in 2016, 2018 and 2019. They were plagued by foul trouble at different stages of the game, and big man Evan Hoosier fouled out with 3:15 to go in regulation.
Each team was whistled for 14 infractions and Dimond attempted three more free throws than Ketchikan.
Smooth junior point guard Isaiah Moses led Dimond with 19 points and played the entire 36 minutes, as did Ketchikan’s Chris Lee. Senior Carter Moore proved to be Dimond’s glue and totaled 17 points.
Brad Lauwers, Dimond’s veteran coach, struggled to hide his disappointment after the game.
“We kind of caught a bad break at the end of the first half, so instead of being up 11, we were up by only eight,” Lauwers said of Lee’s big shot.
“.. For a team we didn’t play, we were familiar with them. We watched them over the years, watched them in this tournament. Everybody knows who the Lees are and those other kids seem familiar as well. It’s tough for all of us and some of us are crying because it hurts. We had so much invested, and this was probably my hardest-working team.”
Pihl said his father, a Ketchikan lifer, was 6-years old in 1974. His mom was 4-years old. Ketchikan coach Erik Stockhausen was also 4 year old the last time the Kings ruled. He said the Kings never subscribed to the underdog role they were assigned coming into the tournament. As the No. 8 seed, Ketchikan had to get past the top-seeded East Thunderbirds in Thursday’s first round.
“This is a great tournament, almost all the games went down to the wire and I agree (the Alaska School Activities Association) has a tough job,” Stockhausen said. “Going on record to criticize is not the best idea. But we won 10 of (our last) 11 games by an average of 18.2 points, and that didn’t factor into anything.
“There are a lot of different opinions. But I think there is a better answer than what happened. I’m not insulting other teams, but just the eye test and records, it probably could have been done a little different.”
Then Stockhausen looked past the seedings. It was time to celebrate -- for the first time in 45 years.
“I’m excited for the community, which is a basketball community,” he said. “I told our guys they probably won’t have to pay for a meal the next couple of weeks.
“But I think this win just honors everybody before us. We had some deserving teams in the past, but today, we finally broke down the door.”
Colony 62, Soldotna 38
Class 4A Player of the Year Sullivan Menard and Patrick McMahon each fired in 19 points as Colony rolled to a 62-38 third-place game victory over Northern Lights Conference rival Soldotna.
Menard, who plans to be a preferred walk-on at NCAA Division I DePaul next season, sank 6 of 11 field goal attempts, including two 3-pointers, to rebound from a 2-of-8 shooting effort in Friday’s 42-34 semifinal loss to Dimond.
McMahon hit 8 of 11 shots and grabbed a team-high six rebounds for Colony, which outscored Soldotna 19-2 in the second quarter.
Soldotna’s Jersey Truesdell sank four 3-pointers and totaled a game-high 21 points.
East 57, West Valley 48
East broke open a tied game after three quarters with a 22-13 run in the final quarter and Kaeleb Johnson notched a game-high 17 points as the top-seeded Thunderbirds earned fourth place with a 57-48 win over West Valley.
Johnson made five 3-pointers, Andrew Graves finished with 14 points and seven rebounds and Jaron Williams contributed 11 points for the T-birds.
Cortarius Mingo and Dylan Erhart each scored 14 points and Terrell Peter had 11 for West Valley.
ASAA/First National Bank Alaska all-tournament team
Isaiah Moses, Dimond
Marcus Lee, Ketchikan
Patrick McMahon, Colony
Jersey Truesdell, Soldotna
Kaeleb Johnson, East
Chris Lee, Ketchikan
Evan Hoosier, Dimond
Sullivan Menard, Colony
Dylan Erhart, West Valley
Jaron Williams, East
This story has been updated to correct the halftime score and the number of years since Ketchikan’s previous championship.
Matt Nevala co-hosts “The Sports Guys” radio show, Saturdays at 11 a.m. on KHAR AM 590 and FM 96.7. Find him on social media at @MNevala9.