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Valdez boys basketball wins defensive battle with Barrow to advance to 3A semifinals

Mar. 21—In the only competitive game of the early window of the first day of the 3A state basketball tournament, the No. 5 Valdez boys were able to come out on top of a low-scoring affair to notch a decisive 34-31 victory over No. 4 Barrow that went down to the wire.

"We knew it was going to be a tough game with them," Valdez boys head coach David Cronk said. "They're big and we've been watching them. They have a great high-low post game so we just talked about making sure we're guarding the post well and making sure we front those guys when we can, and making sure we rebounded well."

Even though the Buccaneers were outrebounded by the Whalers 33-25, they were able to convert more offensive boards into second-chance scoring opportunities. They also avoided turnovers with just two compared to Barrow's nine.

"It was a tough strong team but we came out and executed," Cronk said. "(We) missed a bunch of easy (shots) early that could've gave us a little bit more cushion but we stuck with it, we fought, and it's good to see these guys have that grit and determination even when (shots) aren't going in."

The game featured six lead changes and three ties and neither team led by more than six points at any given time.

"We've talked all year about just playing great defense, staying in front of your guy, and doing those things so that we don't have to get into help rotations and weaken our defense right away," Cronk said. "I thought we had pretty good perimeter defense, and for Barrow's size and strength down low, we guarded them pretty well."

Valdez didn't have a single player reach double figures in scoring. Tino Tucker led the way with nine and Jarrett Gage added eight.

"Throughout the year we've had a lot of sickness and we've had different guys step up at different times knowing they've all been capable of doing stuff," Cronk said.

Barrow had a chance to potentially force overtime in the final seconds of regulation, but the corner 3-point attempt from Sasita Unutoa fell short of the rim and was corralled by a Buccaneer for a game-sealing rebound.

Up next for Valdez is the daunting task of trying to pull off an upset in the semifinals over No. 1 Mt. Edgecumbe, which has yet to lose a game this season.

Mt. Edgecumbe 66, Hutchison 20

The top-seeded Braves cruised to a lopsided victory in the quarterfinals over the No. 8 seed after opening the game with a 13-0 run. With the win, Mt. Edgecumbe remains undefeated and improved to 25-0 and punched its ticket to the semifinals where the Braves will face off with Valdez at 6:15 p.m. Thursday.

Mt. Edgecumbe dropped over 20 points in each of the first two quarters and was up 47-11 at halftime. The Braves had eight of the 10 players who saw action score at least once and had three record double figures in points. Donovan Standifer led the way with 13 points followed by Richard Didrickson Jr. and Tyrell Cromer with 10 a piece.

Nome-Beltz 55, Houston 39

The second-seeded Nanooks jumped out to an early lead over the Hawks and continued to distance themselves on their way to winning by nearly 20 points. The triumph marked their eighth in a row, improved their overall record to 22-4, and punched their ticket to the semifinals.

Nome-Beltz outscored Houston in all four quarters and won the turnover battle 22-13. The Nanooks got the vast majority of their points from just two players who scored 20-plus points apiece. Richard Cross was a force on both ends of the court with a game-high 23 points and led the team with seven steals while Finn Gregg finished second in scoring with 20 points.

Grace Christian 51, Seward 30

The third-seeded Grizzlies pulled away from and blew out the sixth-seeded Seahawks in the final game of 3A quarterfinal action. The win marked their 15th in a row, improved their overall record to 23-4, and secured a spot in the semifinals, where they will face second-seeded Nome-Beltz in a rematch of the last two state finals on Thursday night at 7:45 p.m.

After playing to a 8-8 tie through one quarter of play, the reigning state champions hit the gas and didn't let up, outscoring their conference foe 43-22 over course of the final three quarters. Grace Christian had a pair of players tie for the team lead in scoring with Ashton Clarkson and Kellen Jedlicka recording 11 points a piece while Bristol Tobin was just one converted free throw or bucket away from a double double with nine points and a team-leading 10 rebounds.

Girls

Mt. Edgecumbe 75, Homer 39

The fourth-seeded Braves got Thursday's action started by sinking the fifth-seeded Mariners. The win marked their fifth in a row, improved their overall record to 22-3, and clinched a berth in the semifinals, where they will face top-seeded Barrow on Thursday at 4:45 p.m.

The Braves got exactly two-thirds of their total points from a pair of players that scored 20-plus points. Leading the way was Carliese O'Brien with a whopping 29 points. She tied for the team lead in rebounds with seven and led them with seven steals. Tessa Anderson was second in scoring with 21 points and tied O'Brien for the team lead in rebounds.

Monroe Catholic 56, Bethel 25

The third-seeded Rams vaulted past the sixth-seeded Warriors for a convincing 21-point victory in the quarterfinals. The win marked their 13th in a row, improved their overall record to 23-4, and secured a spot in the semifinals.

Monroe Catholic scored 14 points in each of the first two quarters while holding Bethel to a combined six points at halftime. The Rams used a complete team effort to outpace the Warriors offensively in this game with 11 different players recording a bucket and only one reaching double figures, which was Leila Church with 11 points. Homer's Briella Herron led all scorers with 13 points.

Barrow 74, Sitka 48

The top-seeded Whalers handled the eighth-seeded Wolves in a nearly 30-point victory in a strong show of force. The win marked their 13th in a row, improved their overall record to 22-3, and punched their ticket to the semifinals where they will face No. 4 Mt. Edgecumbe at 4:45 p.m. Thursday.

Barrow opened with a 10-0 run and used an explosive first quarter to establish a 21-12 lead. The Whalers had 11 of the dozen players that saw the floor score at least one point and had three reach double figures. Leading all scorers was Barrow's Kiara Burnell with 19 points followed by Aiga Unutoa with 16 points and Kylen Burnell came in third on the team with 10 points.

Grace Christian 56, Valdez 19

The second-seeded Grizzlies dominated the seventh-seeded in the final game of the girls bracket on the first day of action. The win marked their eighth in a row, improved their overall record to 24-3, and secured a spot in the semifinals, where they will face third-seeded Monroe Catholic on Thursday afternoon at 3:15 p.m.

Grace Christian exploded out the gate to a 20-2 lead after the first quarter and outscored Valdez in two the next three before letting up in the fourth. The Grizzlies had a trio of players reach double figures in scoring and were led by 2024 Gatorade Player of the Year, Sophie Lentfer with 17 points followed by Ella Boerger with 16 and MJ Van der Horst with 10.

3A Basketball Tournament

At Alaska Airlines Center

Girls

Wednesday

Quarterfinals

Mt. Edgecumbe 75, Homer 39

Monroe Catholic 56, Bethel 25

Barrow 74, Sitka 48

Grace Christian 56, Valdez 19

Thursday

Consolation

Sitka vs. Homer, 10:30 a.m. (Auxiliary)

Bethel vs. Valdez, 10:30 a.m. (Main court)

Semifinals

Monroe Catholic vs. Grace Christian, 3:15 p.m. (Main court)

Barrow vs. Winner Mt. Edgecumbe, 4:45 p.m. (Main court)

Friday

Consolation

4th/6th place, 9:30 a.m. (Main court)

Saturday

3rd/5th place, 9 a.m. (Main court)

Championship, 1 p.m. (Main court)

Boys

Wednesday

Quarterfinals

Valdez 34, Barrow 31

Mt. Edgecumbe 66, Hutchison 20

Nome-Beltz 55, Houston 39

Grace Christian 51, Seward 30

Thursday

Consolation

Barrow vs. Hutchison, noon (Auxiliary gym)

Houston vs. Seward, noon (Main court)

Semifinals

Valdez vs. Mt. Edgecumbe, 6:15 p.m. (Main court)

Nome-Beltz vs. Grace Christian, 7:45 p.m. (Main court)

Friday

Consolation

4th/6th place, 11 a.m. (Auxiliary gym)

Saturday

3rd/5th place, 10:30 a.m. (Avis complex)

Championship, 3 p.m. (Main court)