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Lathrop Girls’ tournament run ends in overtime at the hands of the undefeated state champions

Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 9:13 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Throughout the 2021 season, the Lathrop girls basketball program struggled to string together a series of games in which they had a complete team. Whether due to illness or injury, the Malemutes always seemed to be shorthanded, sometimes leaving them shorthanded on the scoreboard.

Their season began falling into place leading up to the Mid Alaska Conference tournament, where they were fully loaded, defeating North Pole and West Valley on their way to their first Alaska High School Basketball State Tournament appearance in four years. Carrying that momentum into state, Lathrop rolled over Dimond and bested Colony to make their first state championship game since 2001, when they fell to East Anchorage.

However, for Lathrop to bring Fairbanks its first Class 4A state title - boys or girls - since 1992, they would have to take down the undefeated Bartlett Golden Bears and their 4A Player of the Year Amelia Uhila.

While it was a tall task, the Malemutes never backed down, going toe-to-toe with the Golden Bears. Senior leader Tristian Martin committed her second foul just 90 seconds into the game and had to sit the remainder of the opening quarter. That resulted in a slow start for Lathrop, netting just five points in the first quarter. The moment Martin returned to the floor to start the second, things fell right back into place as a 13-point quarter kept the Malemutes within striking distance, trailing 23-18 at halftime.

A Torrin Johnson-Oates layup with 2:45 remaining in the contest gave Lathrop its first lead since 5-3 in the first quarter. On the ensuing possession, Bartlett answered right back with a bucket of their own to recapture the lead. The final points of regulation came with 58 seconds left when TJO made a trip to the free throw line, knocking down both shots to eventually send the game to overtime after both teams missed shots around the rim. The ball bounced in the Bears’ favor it overtime, capping their undefeated season with a 47-46 win in overtime.

“They never gave up, we didn’t gave up we kept fighting,” said Lathrop head coach Dave Stewart of his team after the agonizing loss. “These young ladies worked very hard all year for this opportunity. It just hurts so bad to watch them, they upset in there and just to watch them going through what they’re going through right now, it is a life lesson. No matter what happened, we just kept fighting and we weren’t going to give up until there was zeroes on the clock.”

The loss marked an incredible tournament run for the Malemutes, reaching their first title game in 20 years.

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