by Tommy Wells
When the Grace Christian Lady Grizzlies began chipping away at the Bethel Regional High School Lady Warriors’ lead late in the fourth quarter on Saturday morning in the Wells Fargo Sports Complex, Katie Crow and the Lady Warriors didn’t panic. They knew all they had to do was continue to play their game.
The Lady Warriors’ ability to stay calm under pressure paid huge dividends in the end, Bethel knocked down a basket in the final minutes and then held on to claim a thrilling 36-35 victory and snared fourth-place in the final team standings at the 2017 ASAA/First National Bank Alaska Class 3A State Basketball Championships. The BRHS girls rebounded from a tough loss to Western Conference rival Barrow in the first round to win their final two outings.
“We played a lot of close games over the last two years so we weren’t too concerned,” said junior point guard Katie Crow. “We knew what we had to do.”
Grace Christian, behind the play of Makenna Shamberger, came out strong in the first. The Lady Grizzlies held the Lady Warriors’ offense to just nine points in the first eight minutes and took a three-point lead into the second, at 12-9.
Crow and the BRHS girls got their offense in gear in the second. The Lady Warriors outscored Grace Christian by a 12-7 clip and went into the half with a slim 21-19 cushion.
As a team, Bethel struggled from the field in the first half, hitting just 8 of their 5 attempts – including 0-of-0 from behind the three-point arc. As a team, Bethel shot just 32 percent from the field in the first two periods.
The Lady Warriors got off to a quick start in the third, building a big lead before Grace Christian managed to rally. The Lady Grizzlies went into the fourth trailing 29-26.
Despite Grace Christian’s late push, the Lady Warriors didn’t panic.
“It was crazy,” said Crow, who along with senior Courtney Williams finished with 13 points. “Basketball is a game of runs and they came back. We were used to having games close at the end so we were used to it.”
Ashley Mute also played well for the Lady Warriors. She pumped in eight points, including a 6-for-8 effort from the free throw line.
As a team, the Lady Warriors shot exceptionally well from the charity stripe, hitting 14 of their 17 attempts.
Williams and Marissa Crow led the BRHS defense with five rebounds each, while Williams and Katie Crow each netted four steals.
Bethel tipped off the tournament with a stellar effort in a 50-41 loss against top-ranked Barrow on Thursday in the first round of the tournament. The BRHS girls, playing in front of a large crowd in the Alaska Airlines Center, rallied from a 10-0 deficit to start the game and actually held a lead late in the third quarter.
The defending Western Conference champion, Barrow opened the scoring with a bang. The Lady Whalers reeled off the first 10 points before Williams managed to put Bethel on the board with a short jumper. After a three-point shot by the Lady Whalers’ Milya Wright had upped the Barrow lead to 13-2, the BRHS offense hit stride. Bethel picked up shots from Williams, Mute and Crow in the final 1:02 and pulled to within 14-12 at the start of the second.
Mute finished the game with a double-double, netting 11 points and 10 rebounds. Williams led all BRHS scorers with 15.
Brittney Boney capped a 10-0 run by the Lady Warriors seconds into the second quarter. She sank a 12-foot jumper from the right side at the 7:26 mark of the frame to tie the score at 14-14.
Barrow answered back, however. The Lady Whalers posted a 13-7 run over the final minutes of the half and took a 27-21 lead into the half.
Bethel came roaring back in the third. The Lady Warriors opened the second half with back-to-back buckets from Williams and Mute and cut Barrow’s lead to 1, at 27-26, with 6:31 left in the frame. Crow staked the Lady Warriors to their first lead of the game, at 28-27, just over 3 minutes later when she hit two free throws.
The Lady Whalers answered back again, though. The BHS girls reeled off an 11-0 run over the final 2:26 of the third quarter and initial 1:06 of the fourth and raced to a 43-29 advantage.
Despite the loss, the Lady Warriors took plenty of positives from their showdown with conference-rival Barrow.
“We felt really, really good about that loss,” said Crow, who added tallied seven points in the loss. “That is the closest we have played them all year. We all played together and worked together. I think that just carried us on to the next two games.”
Bethel certainly didn’t show any signs of a letdown in their second-round matchup with Galena. The BRHS girls picked up double-digit offensive outings from Crow and Williams and sailed to an easy 58-34 win over Galena.
In the win, Crow chalked up a team-high 19 points. Williams added 17 points and a team-best nine rebounds. Deja Jackson narrowed missed double figures, finished with eight.