High School Sports

Can’t-miss Harpooners collect another Class 2A boys basketball championship

PALMER – Some truths have become clear in the 37-year history of Alaska’s Class 2A boys basketball.

On full display Saturday inside the Palmer High gym was one of them, in the form of defending-champion Tikigaq’s masterful showing. To wit, if you’re going to come at the Harpooners, you best not miss -- and that proved a certifiable problem for Tok.

Tikigaq scored 15 of the night’s first 17 points as the crew from Point Hope cruised to another state championship with an 83-49 win over the Wolverines.

Tok missed its first 13 shots from the floor before showing some signs of life. Tikigaq looked like the life of the party from start to finish.

“We’ve been playing together since we were little kids, first graders,” said sophomore Joelian Lane, who finished with a game-high 27 points. “We just put everything out on the court and I’ll do anything for (these teammates).”

Like the 1A title game won by Lumen Christi, the game ended with a running clock. The Harpooners triggered the 40-point mercy rule when Lane canned an open 3-pointer with 4 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the final quarter.

At game’s end a few real-time minutes later, the Harpooners (7-6 record) quenched their title thirst with the latest in a six-pack of 2A crowns.

Tikigaq, located above the Arctic Circle on the Chukchi Sea, also won in 2001, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2019 (the COVID-19 pandemic canceled last year’s state tournament). No other 2A school has more than three championships.

“It means everything,” Lane said of the program’s dominance and its importance to his village.

Despite the dreadful start, Tok trailed by nine points after eight minutes and matched the Harpooners 16-16 in the fourth quarter. The Wolverines shot 26% from the floor for the game; Tikigaq shot 50%.

The Wolverines were making their second title-game appearance in school history and their first since finishing second in 2007.

“Win or lose, getting here was an accomplishment for sure,” said Tok’s Revyn Almquist-Corgill, one of the team’s four seniors. “Every day, no matter, what we wanted 100% out of ourselves. No matter what.”

Tok was led by rookie coach Kristie Charlie. Almquist-Corgill said Charlie is a lifelong resident of the town 93 miles from the Canadian border where the Alaska Highway and Tok Cutoff meet. While hard to know the exact historic significance of a woman coaching a boys team to the 2A championship game, Charlie sat on the same bench where Chugiak’s Josi Schultz sat last week when the Mustangs lost the Class 4A boys title to East High.

Almquist-Corgill led Tok with double double (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Cody Charlie added 11. Tok compiled a 7-1 record in this oddest of seasons and times.

“Leaving behind the four years of playing basketball, my favorite sport,” Almquist-Corgill said. “It’s been my backbone. I think these guys will be back and I’m lucky to have had some influence on them.”

Another senior who stood out in his final high school game was Tikigaq’s Henry Kowunna. As a sophomore in 2019, he scored a game-high 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the Harpooners’ 53-47 championship-game victory over Metlakatla at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center.

He totaled 19 points and 11 rebounds Saturday.

“Henry has been great his whole career,” Lane said. “He’s played excellent the entire time.

“I love that guy. He’s one heckuva player.”

Senior Gevin Oenga added 17 points on 8 of 12 shooting and junior Clyde Frankson scored 16 points for the Harpooners. Lane, Kowunna and Oenga were named to the all-tournament team for Tikigaq, and Almquist-Corgill, Teddy Northway and Jeffery Adams represented Tok.

Matt Nevala co-hosts “The Sports Guys” radio show, Saturdays at 11 a.m. on KHAR AM 590 and FM 96.7 (@cbssports590). Find him on social media at @MNevala9.

ASAA March Madness Alaska

Class 2A boys all-tournament team

Hunter Terrel, Glennallen

Evin Matchian, Hooper Bay

Joelian Lane, Tikigaq

Teddy Northway, Tok

Cassius Sundown, Scammon Bay

Jeffery Adams, Tok

Henry Kowunna, Tikigaq

Ellsworth Haugen, Unalakleet

Revyn Almquist-Corgill, Tok

Gevin Oenga, Tikigaq

Matt Nevala

Matt Nevala co-hosts “The Sports Guys” radio show, Saturdays at 11 a.m. on KHAR AM 590 and FM 96.7 (@cbssports590). Find him on social media at @MNevala9.