Not many high school basketball teams in the state of Alaska have been able to best the Bettye Davis East High boys varsity squad once, let alone twice in the same season, as they’ve been a powerhouse program the past five years.
On Tuesday night, Dimond High (20-3) became the first team to accomplish that feat in three years, mounting an impressive comeback to defeat East (20-3) for the second time this season. The 41-38 thriller went down to the wire and featured a stifling defensive effort, and Dimond allowed just 12 points in the second half after going into halftime down 26-13.
“At halftime, coach fired us up, gave a great speech, and we just had to realize that we had to look deep down and see if we wanted it,” senior power forward Maguire Hamey said.
The first matchup between these two Cook Inlet Conference rivals took place on the home court of the Lynx last month in a defensive game where they were down only nine points or less before ultimately prevailing 45-44.
This time around, they trailed by double digits for extended periods of time and were in a hostile road environment on the Thunderbirds’ senior night.
“It’s tough to play here, but it also gets you energized at the same time, so it’s fun,” Hamey said. “We’ve been rivals for a long time, they’re a great program and have been great for a long time so it feels good to win.”
The last team to beat East twice in a season was the Colony Knights, who bested the Thunderbirds in their 2019-20 opener and again in their third matchup that season.
In Tuesday’s game, Dimond outscored East 13-5 in the third quarter and only trailed 31-27 by the end of the period. They could’ve narrowed that deficit to two points had the clock not expired just before senior small forward Xzavier Baker, who got the ball on a fast break following a turnover, could slam down a vicious dunk.
“It starts on defense,” sophomore Marek Hajdukovich said. “We were moving a little too fast, had to slow it down, make the right passes, and just get our mind right.”
The Lynx tied the game 31-31 in the first minute of the fourth quarter on a layup from senior Trey Adams, took their first lead of the game on a 3-pointer from Hajdukovich at the 3:45 mark, and pulled ahead for the final time on a 3-pointer from Hamey with 2:19 left on the clock.
“I’m just happy (Baker) passed it to me and I’m happy I hit it,” Hamey said.
The Thunderbirds had several opportunities to score in the final minute but couldn’t get any of their shots to fall, including a final attempt by senior guard Deshawn Rushmeyer from behind the arc as the final second ticked off the clock.
Hajdukovich finished as Dimond’s leading scorer with 13 points and Hamey was the only other player to reach double digits in scoring with 10 points.
East sophomore Muhammed Sabally recorded a game-high 15 points and Rushmeyer finished second on the team with eight points and would’ve crossed the double figures threshold had he made his last shot to force overtime.
The Lynx have bested several of the top teams around the state this season at the 4A level. In addition to sweeping East, they also handed top-ranked West Valley (21-1) their first and only loss of the season so far.
While their win over the Thunderbirds tied the two teams in teams of their overall records, Dimond improved to 12-1 in conference play with one game left in the regular season while dropping East to 11-2.
“Last year we lost to them three times, so it was a little personal this year,” Hajdukovich said.
They now sit alone atop the CIC standings with Friday’s regular season finale bringing a rematch against West — which dealt Dimond their only conference loss at home — before regions next week.
“It’s going to be tough, we know teams are coming for us, we just have to prepare and be ready,” Hamey said.