West Valley Boys punch their tickets to the State Tournament
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - For more than 40 years, West Valley and Lathrop High Schools have been scraping it out in various sports to see who is the best canine school in Fairbanks. Naturally, Wolfpack and the Malemutes battled on the hardwood Thursday with a ticket to the Class 4A Alaska High School Basketball State Tournament on the line.
Always a dogfight, West Valley had a clean record over Lathrop throughout the season-series, that was until their most recent matchup March 9 when Lathrop upset the Wolfpack on their home floor.
West Valley played as if that defeat was still lingering in their mind, jumping out to a 20-point lead by halftime, which was enough cushion to come away with a 70-59 victory, launching them to the State Tournament.
Senior Judah Ward and sophomore Tyrique led the way offensively with 17 points apiece, while leader Cortarius Mingo added 13 points in the win. Stewart Erhart, who was wearing a face guard due to a facial injury, was a masked menace on the floor, providing 11 points, eight assists and six steals.
The game was defined in the second quarter when the Wolfpack held the Malemutes to just three points, inflating their lead heading into the break.
West Valley was destined to make some noise at the State Tournament last year as they had just one blemish on their record before it was canceled. Now, they have a chance to redeem themselves despite graduating seven seniors in 2020 class.
“It means a lot,” said Mingo. “Last year, I feel like we had a promising ending, and to get it snatched away from me like that it hurt, so coming back and winning, that means the most.”
“It was disappointing last year cause we was the best team in state,” added Erhart. “We’re just trying to go down there and win it all and I feel like we’re the best team in the state.”
“We are definitely using that as kind of an edge to keep the kids motivated,” mentioned head coach Colten Growden. “It’s like ‘hey for those of you that are returning, this is an opportunity so let’s make the most of it.”'
West Valley will enter the State Tournament as the number one seed out of the Mid Alaska Conference. They will be seeking their first Alaska High School State Basketball Championship since 1990.
Lathrop never laid down in this one, pulling within single digits with a fourth quarter rally.
“They didn’t give up, I think there’s a heck of a life lesson there for that game.” said Lathrop head coach Matt Wilken. “The leadership that we’ve had with our seniors is gonna carry forward for years and years and I’m just incredibly proud of how our kids battled.”
The Malemutes outscored the Wolfpack 42-33 in the second half.
Senior Ben Kraska scored a team-high 19 points while Jaylen Thomas added 14 for the Malemutes.
MID ALASKA ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM (SEASON)
MVP - Cortarius Mingo - West Valley
|Judah Ward||West Valley||12|
|Tyriq Luke||West Valley||11|
|Stewart Erhart||West Valley||10|
|Alex Garcia||North Pole||12|
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