Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Night or day, the Colony Knights girls basketball team is tough to handle and the Thunder Mountain Falcons found that Saturday morning was just as tough as Friday night, falling 60-48 under a barrage of shots from outside from the visitors who also won 60-52 the night before.
“I loved the effort,” Falcons coach Andy Lee said Saturday. “It was a grind today. And a part of that is our kids have never had to get up and play. They don’t know that regionals can be at 8 o’clock in the morning. This wass important. Now they know what their bodies feel like. Now they know what it is like to get up. Last year their (Colony’s) freshmen and sophomores in the last two years were playing three or four games on Saturday, and two in the morning. Our kids haven’t had to get up and play on Saturday.”
Once again the Colony team was led by freshman guards Hallie Clark and Alley Shelley, who hit eight and seven points, respectively, in the first quarter. Three of the shots came from deep outside.
TMHS freshman Cailynn Baxter kept the Falcons in the mix, scoring all of the team’s seven points in the quarter to stay close at 15-7.
The Falcons had more success with a zone defense on Friday than man-to-man and once again used their zone to combat the quickness of the Knights but could not contain their shooters.
“I watched, just like coach (Andy Lee) did, watched film and kind of tried to figure that out,” Colony coach Chandice Kelly said. “That was our goal, trying to get the ball in and out and make more passes. We were super stagnant yesterday and I think today we moved the ball a lot better and I think that kind of made the difference for us.”
The Falcons would not get closer than the eight-point spread of the first quarter.
Both teams hit a free throw to start the second period, Colony sophomore Addison Finley and TMHS sophomore Ashlyn Gates did the honors.
Then Colony’s Shelley and Clark scored 12 of the Knights’ next 16 points.
TMHS stayed within an 11-point gap with scores by Gates, junior Kiara Kookesh, freshman Kerra Baxter, senior Jo Pasion and another six points from C. Baxter to trail 33-22 at the half.
The Falcons went to their strengths inside more in the third quarter with C. Baxter, Gates and senior Sydney Strong answering scores from Colony junior Emma Hopkins, Shelley and freshman Teresa McMahon.
“As a team I feel like we are really coming together,” Strong said. “I feel like we have so much potential. We are coming together so much. We are starting to see the potential as a group, coming together. I’m getting used to the physicality, getting back into the swing of basketball season, if I am double teamed, passing it out, looking for shooters. And just trying to make the overall smart basketball play, not forcing anything.”
Colony’s Shelley and Hopkins added scores to push the lead to 46-32 with three minutes left in the quarter.
After single free throws by Falcons seniors Grace Sikes and Strong, the Knights’ Clark hit a drive, Hopkins a free throw and Clark stole a pass and buried a shot past the arc for a 52-36 advantage after three quarters.
Sikes scored 15 seconds into the fourth quarter and Gates added another basket 15 seconds later for a brief momentum boost for the Falcons. But Colony’s Shelley buried a deep three and Clark hit a closer step-back jumper for a 57-40 lead with 5:30 to play.
C. Baxter put another score in for the Falcons and Clark answered for Colony with her fifth deep ball of the game, and the Knights final points, to lead 60-42.
The Falcons’ Strong scored with 1:39 remaining, Kookish hit from past the arc with a minute left and K. Baxter added a final free throw to end the day.
“We learned a lot about ourselves this week,” Lee said. “I thought we got contributions from a lot of places. And kids tend to look at the scorebook to see if they played well if they scored or played poorly if they didn’t, but we had kids that played really good defense, we had rebounders. We are getting pieces. So it is up to me and the coaching staff to get that puzzle to come together.”
C. Baxter led the Falcons with 17 points, Gates, Strong and Kookesh seven each, K. Baxter five, Sikes three and Pasion two.
TMHS hit 11-18 at the charity stripe, Colony 4-12.
Clark led the Knights with 23 points. Shelley had 20, Hopkins 10, sophomore Addison Finley three and McMahon and junior Laney Suaava two apiece.
The Knights have no seniors on their team. Sophomore starting point guard Kaylee Wilkes, who started as a freshman last season, did not make this trip.
“This was a really good trip for us,” Colony coach Kelly said. “Strictly the environment… we had different refs… it’s been quite the experience, but the pressure in playing in these games where they’re close it has only been beneficial for these young girls. When we play Wasilla and Palmer, those games get loud just like they do here where you can’t hear anything.”
Kelly commented on the time her young team spends working on their game.
“It’s super important,” Kelly said. “All these girls have spent hours and hours in the gym, working on skills, getting shots up. I mean they put in the work. And that obviously shows.”
Most of the Knights players have already played comp league and middle school ball, which can put 40-plus games a year into their skill set.
Colony’s Clark and Shelley said they have played together on the same team since they were in the third grade. The duo totaled 73 and 57 points, respectively, on this three-game road trip to Juneau.
The duo said they “love the atmosphere” of playing in Southeast and said in the next four years they “definitely want to win a state championship,” saying they haven’t had their best game yet.