Lady Warriors hold off Kotzebue for state berth

Courtney Williams of the Bethel Lady Warrors dribbles past a Kotzebue defender during the 3A Girls Western Conference Finals last weekend.

by Tommy Wells

The Bethel Regional High School Lady Warriors punched their ticket to the Class 3A state basketball tournament on Saturday evening in front of a large crowd in the Dimond High School Gym. Getting back didn’t come without its share of drama.
Actually, it came with plenty of it – both good and bad.
The Lady Warriors raced to a commanding 22-point lead in the first half and then held off a stunning second-half rally before seniors Courtney Williams and Katie Crow managed to come up big in the final minute of play to preserve a wild 55-50 victory in the second-place game at the Western Conference Basketball Championships. By finishing second, Bethel will join conference champion Barrow in advancing to the state tournament, which begins on March 24 at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.
Bethel looked as if it would put down Kotzebue’s second-half barrage easily early in the fourth quarter. When Marissa Crow and Deja Jackson pumped in shots in the first three minutes of the final frame, they staked the Lady warriors to a 13-point lead, at 51-38 with 5:10 left. Their baskets highlighted an 8-2 start by Bethel to the fourth.
Kotzebue didn’t quit. The Lady Huskies answered Bethel’s run with a spree of their own, reeling off 13 straight points, including a three-point shot by freshman Ally Martin that cut the Lady Warriors’ lead to 51-47 with 2:11 remaining in regulation. Alanna Conwell finished Kotzebue’s run moments later with a free throw just over a minute later to bring Kotzebue to within one possession.
Williams finally ended the Lady Huskies’ run. She sank both ends of a two-shot trip to the free throw line with 1:01 left and pushed Bethel’s lead to five, at 53-48.
Tina Conwell brought the Lady Huskies back. She finished off Kotzebue’s next possession by taking a pass inside and converting it into a bucket. Her basket trimmed Bethel’s lead to three again, at 53-50.
Kotzebue made one final push at the lead in the closing seconds. After the Lady Warriors were whistled for an illegal screen with 8.7 seconds left, Huskies’ senior Calia Sieh tossed up a three-point attempt that bounced harmlessly off the rim.
Katie Crow, one of three BRHS players to score into double digits in the event, sealed the win moments later by sinking a pair of free throws.
Bethel didn’t look as if it would need last-minute free throws to clinch its second straight trip to the state tournament. The BRHS girls rolled into the half clinging to a commanding 22-point lead.
Kotzebue scratched its way back into the contest with a gutsy third-quarter effort. The Lady Huskies outscored Bethel by an 18-6 clip in the first eight minutes of the second half and pulled to within 43-33 at the start of the fourth.
Marissa Crow, who finished the game with 10 points, scored the bulk of the Lady Warriors’ third-quarter points by throwing in a pair of shots from inside the paint in the final 2:30.
As hot as Kotzebue was in the third, Bethel was even more dominating in the second. The BRHS girls blew the game wide open with a 22-5 outburst in the frame, including a 16-0 run that left Kotzebue looking up at a 37-15 halftime deficit.
After Kotzebue’s Payton McConnell had pulled the Lady Huskies to within 15-11, Jackson ignited the Lady Warriors’ run by pushing in a 16-footer from the baseline. Fiola Dema came off the bench moments later and knocked down back-to-back baskets to up Bethel’s lead to 10, at 21-11. Jackson and Marissa Crow both added shots from there before Williams finished off the run with a three-pointer over the outstretched hands of Sieh.
Williams’ trey gave Bethel a 31-11 lead with 3:05 left in the first half.
Kotzebue managed to stay close in the first quarter. Sieh gave the Lady Huskies their only lead of the game just seconds into the opening period by draining a three-point shot.
Katie Crow erased Kotzebue’s lead seconds later by sinking three-pointer of her own.
Crow and Williams combined to score the next 12 points for the Lady Warriors and staked the BRHS girls to an 15-1 lead at the end of the opening frame.
Williams closed out the contest with a game-high 22 points. Jackson narrowly missed double figures, checking in with nine.
The win over Kotzebue avenged the Lady Warriors’ 38-36 loss to the Lady Huskies in the first round of the double-elimination tournament on Thursday. In that game, Kotzebue raced to a 7-2 lead in the first quarter and then held off a late BRHS rally to claim the win. The Lady Warriors, who trailed at the half by an 18-12 clip, outscored Kotzebue by a 24-20 margin in the final 16 minutes.
Bethel had its chance to steal the win late in the fourth. Crow managed to lay in a basket with just over a minute left in regulation to give the Lady Warriors a 36-35 lead.
Unfortunately for Bethel, Kotzebue reeled off three points and grabbed a 38-26 lead with 31 seconds left. The Lady Huskies sealed the win in the closing seconds by blocking Bethel’s final shot at the goal.
Crow led all BRHS scorers in their first-round loss by tallying 12 points. Williams and Madisen Smith added nine and eight, respectively. Dorothy Bukowski and Marissa Crow added three and two.
Bethel rebounded from the loss to Kotzebue with a win over Nome on Friday in the consolation round. The win over Nome pushed the Lady Warriors into a second-place rematch with Kotzebue, which had suffered a loss to Barrow in the championship game.