High School Sports

Bettye Davis East dominates with depth in statement win over crosstown rival West

Final box scores don’t always tell the full story of how a game played out on a given night.

While the final margin of victory for the Bettye Davis East boys basketball team over West High was just 13 points in their 77-64 win on Friday night, they were firmly in control for the vast majority of the game.

“It’s a crazy feeling because coming from last game, it’s just shocking after having a close game,” East senior Deshawn Rushmeyer said. “Happy to be able to pull it out the way we did.”

The last time the two teams faced off was at the Alaska Airlines Classic on Jan. 21 and ended in a 68-62 triumph for East.

At one point late in the third quarter, the Thunderbirds led by as many as 30 points and entered the fourth up 61-32 before the Eagles tried to mount a furious rally in the final eight minutes.

“We played good tonight,” East coach Chuck Martin said. “We were really sloppy in the fourth quarter but when you’re up 30, the pressure kind of gets off ... . To come into West and play as well as we did for three quarters is really good.”

The third quarter in particular was the most pivotal of the game. While West struggled to find any consistency on offense, the Thunderbirds were at their best on both ends of the floor, outscoring their host 25-10 and holding them scoreless until three minutes and four seconds ticked off the clock.


“Our defense is the main aspect of our game and the main aspect of everything,” Rushmeyer said. “We’re always getting going there first before our offense gets going.”

The win marked East’s 12th of the season, fifth in a row, improved their overall record to 12-1 and keeps them undefeated against Alaska competition with their lone loss coming against Heritage Christian of Northridge, California, last month at the 2023 Alaska Airlines Classic.

“To be able to play a team like Heritage Christian was something new and something we didn’t have a feel for,” Rushmeyer said of the 50-35 defeat.

After a back-and-forth start to the game with the Cook Inlet Conference foes trading one bucket after the other, the Thunderbirds emerged from the opening period up 22-16 and would increase their lead at the end of each of the following with the exception of the fourth.

Rushmeyer recorded more than half of the team’s first quarter points with 12. He finished with a game-high 21 points.

“He’s having a fabulous year, an all-state year,” Martin said. “Deshawn is such a good athlete. He’s really been working on his shooting and he doesn’t take any bad perimeter shots.”

Rushmeyer was one of five different Thunderbirds to reach double figures in points. He scored all of his points in just two quarters with his other 9 coming in the third quarter, the first basket of which came on his third 3-pointer of the game.

“I’ve been working trying to get my (3-pointer) right ... and show that my offense is more than just driving,” Rushmeyer said.

Rushmeyer and fellow regular starters sophomore Muhammed Sabally and junior Akeem Sulaiman were among the team’s leading scorers. East had a pair of key rotational players, senior Victor Meza and sophomore Jal Tharjiath, finish as the other two players to record double digits in points.

“I felt like we got into a good cycle of substitutions tonight and there was no drop-off,” Martin said. “Victor’s only experience as a basketball player is playing C-team two years ago as a sophomore. He had knee surgery last year so he didn’t play and he has just improved so much.”

Despite graduating all five of starters from its record-breaking 2022 class, this year’s team continues to prove that they are still among the cream of the crop at the 4A level.

“It’s the moment I’ve been waiting for,” Rushmeyer said. “Last year I was very selective, I only started a few games so being able to play almost the whole game is a good feeling because I’m able to improve my talents.”

Even though Martin expected the team would come together eventually, he said their success has been a surprise for many.

“We’ve still got to progress through this inexperience but the fun part is we knew that we were going to be pretty good and I don’t think anyone else did,” Martin said.

Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.