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Day 1 of Holiday Classic energizes basketball community

Published: Jan. 29, 2021 at 6:47 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The high school basketball season tipped-off in Fairbanks last week as some schools have played a few games, while others are getting their first taste of action. The 12th annual Mt. McKinley Bank Holiday Classic, hosted by Monroe Catholic High School, brought some sense of normalcy to the basketball community, although COVID restrictions such as masks and limited attendance were still present. Hence the ‘Holiday’ part of the name, the annual tournament typically takes place in late December, but given the delay of the start to the basketball season, players, coaches and fans had to wait until late January. Featuring the boys and girls programs of the West Valley Wolfpack, Lathrop Malemutes, Grace Christian Grizzlies (Anchorage) and the host Rams, Boileau Hall was jam-packed with action Friday. With six Fairbanks programs in taking the court, it felt like high school basketball was all the way back.

Lathrop/West Valley Girls

It was the first time the West Valley girls touched the court this season, but it was hard to tell in their 65-59 win over a talented Lathrop squad that was coming off of a win Tuesday. West Valley’s senior low post duo of Hadley Blasey and Rachel Cockman both fouled out early in the fourth quarter after contributing 15 and 14 points respectively. Trailing by four points after three quarters, it was senior guard Ali May stepping up to fill their shoes, scoring a team-high 18 points as the Red and Gold outscored Lathrop 21-10 in the final frame to claim victory in their season-opener.

“Rachel and Hadley, both of our two tallest players, they both fouled out early and so just like to have the team step up, especially the two freshman that were on the court, it was awesome, I am really proud of them.” May said after the victory.

Lathrop’s Tristian Martin did all she could, scoring 28 points in the loss, while TT Tagovailoa chipped in 15. West Valley faces Grace Christian Friday, while Lathrop takes on Monroe

Lathrop/West Valley Boys

The boys programs of the teams above took the court next, and it was just as one would expect between the cross-town rivals. In a physical matchup, the Wolfpack hung on to a slim lead early, but they could not fend off the resilient Malemutes. With a 28-23 halftime advantage, West Valley newcomer Tyriq Luke scored 14 of his game-high 27 points in the third quarter to propel the Wolfpack to a 65-61 victory. Only five members of West Valley were on the scoring sheet, with Stewart Erhart and Judah Ward contributing 15 points apiece. Even after the hard fought victory, Ward wasn’t satisfied.

“It was an alright win, we could have done way better, we just need to focus more and we will come back tomorrow and be better.

“I am just looking forward to having fun, trying our hardest and try to get the win,” Ward added about the remainder of the Holiday Classic.

Three Malemutes reached double-figures, led by Pukah Tagovailoa’s 19 points, while sophomore Earl Parker added 17. The Wolfpack look to carry the momentum into Friday’s contest with Grace Christian, while Lathrop looks to bounce back against Monroe.

Monroe/Grace Christian Girls

Defense has been a strong suit for the 3-0 Rams and they used that strength to their advantage once again in their 55-26 win over their 3A counterpart. In each quarter, Monroe held the Grizzlies to six, nine, 11 and then 0 points in the fourth quarter on the way to their third straight victory to start the season. It was the backcourt duo of Katie Bast and Shelby Eidenmiller doing the damage offensively, with Bast dropping a team-high 16 points, while Eidenmiller added 12. The Rams will look to stay undefeated, taking on Lathrop Friday, while Grace Christian faces the Wolfpack.

Monroe/Grace Christian Boys

In a contest between two 3A powerhouses, the Rams looked to be having some fun early on. Activity on defense and unselfishness on offense lifted the Rams to a 62-41 victory over the Grizzlies in their tournament opener. Sophomore standout Malachi Bradley paced the Rams with 21 points, including a three-quarter court heave that banked in prior to the halftime buzzer. Senior floor general Jase McCullough added 18 points, a handful of steals and of course, his share of dimes in the victory.

“It is our revenge tour,” said McCullough of what motivates the team. “We missed out last year so we are just getting our chance to get it back this year.”

The Rams will face Lathrop Friday, while Grace Christian takes on against West Valley.

The Mt. McKinley Bank Holiday Classic will conclude Saturday with the Grace Christian and Lathrop programs squaring off (girls 12 p.m., boys 1:40 p.m.) before West Valley and Monroe go at it (girls 3:20 p.m., boys 5 p.m.).

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