by Tommy Wells
Katie Crow made more than a few big-time shots for the Bethel Regional High School Lady Warriors on Saturday evening in the Western Conference Basketball Championships’ second-place game. None, however, was more important than her last shot of the third quarter.
As it turned out, it was the shot that all but punched Bethel’s ticket to the Class 3A state basketball tournament.
Having watched Kotzebue reel off 10 unanswered points in a late third-quarter run, Crow managed to breathe new life into the BRHS offense with less than a minute to play in the frame by pushing home a basket.
The basket, which came on the heels of a three-point shot by Kotzebue’s Calia Sieh that had pulled the Lady Huskies to within five, sent Bethel into the fourth holding a 35-28 cushion.
The Lady Warriors made the basket standup in the final eight minutes, outscoring Kotzebue by a 10-9 margin.
With the win, Bethel clinched the conference’s second-place seed in the state tournament, which tips off on March 23 in Anchorage. Barrow nailed down the conference title on Friday.
Bethel, which had entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed, got off to a quick start against Kotzebue, which had finished the regular season ranked fifth in the Class 3A state polls. Marissa Crow and Katie Crow both pumped in early shots in the opening frame and helped the Lady Warriors nab a 4-0 lead. Courtney Williams added a short jumper minutes later and pushed BRHS’ lead to 6-2.
Kotzebue, which had fallen into the second-place game via its loss to Barrow in the championship game a day before, fought its way back. Alanna Conwell turned a pass from Sieh into a basket at the 1:56 mark of the first and moved the Lady Huskies to within 7-5. Less than a minute later, Conwell struck again, knocking down a running layup that trimmed Bethel’s lead to one, at 8-7.
Williams gave the momentum back to the Lady Warriors from there. The junior guard closed out the first quarter of play with a shot from the field, and then started the second with a three-point play that upped Bethel’s lead to 13-8.
A state qualifier a year ago, the Lady Huskies answered back again. Caitlin Conwell turned a steal at midcourt into an easy layup midway through the second and pulled Kotzebue to within three, at 17-14.
Williams, who scored 10 points in the first half, silenced the KHS run from there. She sank a three-pointer in the final minute of the opening half and keyed a surge that sent Bethel into the half nursing a 22-16 advantage.
Crow and the Lady warriors looked as if they were going to blow the game open in the initial moments of the second half. Sparked by seven points from Crow, the Lady Warriors posted a 11-2 spree in the first 4 minutes of the third and ballooned their lead to 33-18.
Brittney Boney capped the BRHS run with a jumper from the right wing that staked Bethel to a 15-point lead.
Unfortunately for Bethel, Kotzebue found its groove from there. The Lady Huskies scored the next 10 points.
The win over Kotzebue helped Bethel finish the Western Conference tournament with a 2-1 record, with their only setback coming in the opening round to Barrow. The Lady Warriors rallied back to reach the second-place game with a win over Nome-Beltz on Friday.
ASAA Class 3A State Basketball Tournament
March 23-25 in Anchorage
11 a.m. – Valdez vs. Sitka
12:30 p.m. – Galena vs. ACS
6:30 p.m. – Nikiski vs. Grace Christian
8 p.m. – Barrow vs. Bethel