The semifinal round of the Cook Inlet Conference regional tournament took place at West High on Friday night and while both of the top two seeds in the boys and girls divisions advanced to the conference title game, it was far from easy as all four teams were tested.
The top-seeded Dimond boys trailed fourth-seeded West by double digits at one point Friday in the the third matchup between the teams this season. But Dimond rallied to win 58-56 and advance to Saturday’s title game. Dimond expected a close game after falling to West 54-48 on Feb. 17, in what was the Eagles’ last loss of the season.
“We were down to them by 20 the last time we played here, and we weren’t going to let that repeat itself,” Marek Hajdukovich said. “We were going to come out fighting and win this game.”
The Eagles were in control for most of the first half thanks to a huge first quarter from senior Willie Zamora, who recorded 10 of his game-high 21 points in the opening frame.
West led by as many as 13 points in the second quarter before the Lynx started chipping away at their lead by making it rain from behind the arc. Dimond knocked down four 3-pointers, two of which came from senior Malachi Casey to cut West’s halftime lead to 36-28.
Dimond opened the third period with a 13-3 run and tied the game at 39-39 on a layup from Hajdukovich.
West gave itself a couple opportunities late in the fourth quarter to potentially force overtime but a pair of late free throws from Dimond’s Luke Johnston proved to be the difference in the end.
“We’ve been working on that in practice the last couple of days, situational stuff and coaches talked to us and said ‘You’ve got to hit your free throws’ so it came down to that and we knocked them down,” Johnston said.
The Lynx had five players record double figures in scoring with Hajdukovich leading the way with 13 points. Casey added 12 and Johnston scored 11. The only other West player to reach double figures in scoring was junior Des’laone Cook with 14 points.
Bettye Davis East boys survive Service
The second-seeded Thunderbirds went down to wire with the third-seeded Cougars and came away with a narrow one-point 45-44 victory to advance to a fifth straight CIC title game.
“I think we’ve improved dramatically in a lot of areas in late-game situations,” East boys coach Chuck Martin said. “We’re tickled to death to move on.”
Service opened the game with a 5-0 run but East was able to pull within two points by the end of the quarter and only trailed 12-10 at the start of the second.
The Thunderbirds would go in to outscore the Cougars 12-6 in the second quarter, taking their first lead on a layup from junior Akeem Sulaiman with just under four minutes until halftime and took a 22-18 advantage into the locker room.
Sulaiman finished with a game-high 18 points and senior Deshawn Rushmeyer added 10 points for East.
Service was led in scoring by freshman Leyton Lockard, who notched 13 points that included a trio of 3-pointers. The only other Cougar to reach double figures in scoring was sophomore Cole Balmes with 10 points.
Dimond girls holds on to get past Chugiak
In the first game of Friday’s semifinal action, the second-seeded Lynx looked as if they were going to cruise to the finals after going on an 11-2 run to start the game against the third-seeded Mustangs.
However, Dimond would wind up being held to its lowest point total of the season in a 33-27 triumph. The Lynx could only manage seven points in the second and third quarters combined against the Chugiak defense.
“Chugiak is a very good team, they’re coached very well, and they’re very disciplined,” Dimond girls coach Charles McCubrey said. “We knew that we were going to need a bit of a padding to start off the game because we knew they weren’t going to go away.”
Chugiak senior Octavia Knox recorded a game-high nine points, and Dimond’s Evan Hamey and Maile Wilcox along with Mustangs’ Italia Fraize each scored eight points apiece.
West girls pull away from South in second half
While the top-seeded Eagles prevailed over the fourth-seeded Wolverines by nearly 20 points in a 52-35 victory, it wasn’t a dominant performance by West from start to finish.
West actually trailed coming out of the first quarter 8-7. The back-and-forth first half saw the Eagles take a narrow 21-20 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“The energy is always going to be key with us,” West girls coach Charlie Engel said. “We came out cold, didn’t anticipate it but that’s kind of been our (mode of operating) all year. If we don’t come out with energy, we kind of struggle a little bit.”
West outscored South 18-5 in the third quarter to pull away. The Eagles had a pair of players reach double figures in scoring with senior Jordan Zackery and junior Jayla Speakman each recording a game-high 11 points.
South 58, Eagle River 45
Bartlett 62, Chugiak 35
Service 48, Bartlett 37
West 61, South 60 (OT)
East 45, Service 44
Dimond 58. West 56
No. 3 Service vs No. 4 West, 4:30 p.m.
No. 2 East vs. No. 1 Dimond, 7:30 p.m.
Bartlett 38, Eagle River 27
Service 42, East 37
Chugiak 34, Service 27
South 41, Bartlett 27
Dimond 33, Chugiak 27
West 52, South 35
No. 3 Chugiak vs. No. 4 South, 3 p.m.
No. 2 Dimond vs. No. 1 West, 6 p.m.