by Tommy Wells
Dawson Erik and Michael Flynn formed the best duo since Batman and Robin on Saturday evening. Playing in front of a standing-room-only crowd in the Bethel Regional High School WarriorDome, Erik and Flynn both turned in sensational efforts and helped lift the Chefornak Shaman to a thrilling 61-58 victory over Toksook Bay in the championship game of the 2020 Class 1A Coastal Conference Basketball Championships.
The win avenged an earlier loss to Toksook Bay this season and, more importantly, gave Chefornak a spot in the Class 1A state tournament.
“I told them, ‘This time, you aren’t Cinderella,” said Chefornak head coach Robert Panruk. “You have to be hungry all the time and play until the fat lady sings.”
That lady warmed up late in the title game, but, thanks to Erik and Flynn, she never made it to the stage.
The Shaman, who had led by as much as eight points in the second half, had to hold off a furious rally by Aunatone Sipary and the Islanders in the final minutes to collect the win. Sipary scored nine of Toksook Bay’s last 11 points, including a shot with 1:08 left that tied the game at 56-56.
Less than 30 seconds later, the Toksook Bay standout gave the Islanders the upper hand by stealing a pass and going the distance for a layup. His steal put the Islanders on top, 58-56, with under a minute to play.
Flynn, who finished the contest with a double-double, pulled Chefornak even seconds later. After being fouled, he stepped to the line and buried two shots from the free throw line and knotted the score at 58-58.
Flynn’s heroics didn’t end there. Just over 35 seconds later, Flynn came down with an offensive rebound under the Islander basket. The rebound, Flynn’s 14th of the contest, turned out to be the most important for the Shaman. After grabbing the ball, he passed it out to the top of the key to Erik, who pulled up and buried a three-point shot with 10.7 seconds left.
The Islanders, who had edged Chefornak for the No. 1 seed from the Island League by winning a coin toss, had one final chance. Wilson Pitka’s last-second three-point try from half court came up short with six-10th of a second left.
Toksook Bay didn’t have any trouble putting the ball in the hoop early on against Chefornak. Sparked by a pair of long-range three-point shots by Pitka, the Islanders rode a balanced scoring attack to a quick lead. Jason Nelson and Pitka both knocked down big shots in the first 5 minutes of play and helped spur Toksook Bay to an 11-3 run to open the contest.
Chefornak fought its way back to within four, at 18-14, at the end of the first eight minutes.
Lambert Kairaiuak led the Shaman rally. He sank two of his five three-pointers in the final minutes of the first quarter. Erik also tossed in a three.
Kairaiuak and Erik got the Chefornak offense into high gear in the second. The two combined to nail three more long-range three-pointers in the ensuing period and led a 19-14 spree by the Shaman, Chefornak went into the half clinging to a 33-32 advantage.
Kairaiuak tallied 13 of his 19 points in the first 16 minutes of the affair. Erik chipped in 11 during the same period.
The Islanders fought their way back in the third. Pitka pushed home five points in the frame and led Toksook Bay on a 16-12 run that put the Islanders on top, 48-45, at the start of the fourth.
Pitka finished with 13 points.
Chefornak roared back. The Shaman garnered a fifth trey from Kairaiuak and then added points from Clayton Panruk, Flynn and Aaron Panruk en route to building a 56-52 advantage with under 2 minutes left.
Sipary, who finished with 16 points, brought the Islanders back. He reeled off the next six points and staked Toksook Bay to a 2-point lead, and set the stage for Flynn’s rebound and Erik’s game-winner.
In addition to double-digit rebounds, Flynn also chalked up 11 points. Erik scored 19 in the contest.
Henry Kanuk also played well for the Shaman. He scored four points and collected 10 rebounds.