Late run lifts Bethel past Kotzebue, into 3A state tournament

James Flemings of the Bethel Warriors drives in and shoots in between Kotzebue Husky defenders. The Warriors with their win advance to the State 3A championship finals, March 23-25, 2017.

by Tommy Wells

For the Bethel Regional High School Warriors, their 2016-17 basketball season came down to a 5 minutes and 55 seconds span of the fourth quarter of their second-place game at the 2017 Western Conference Basketball Championships on Saturday.

When it ended, Bethel had withstood a strong challenge from the Kotzebue Huskies and claimed a 52-42 victory – and earned a berth in the Class 3A state basketball tournament.

Kotzebue didn’t make the win easy.

After Bish Gallahorn had pushed in a shot, Kotzebue’s Otto Kenworthy finished off a 4-0 spurt by the Huskies with a layup that trimmed Bethel’s lead to one basket, at 38-36, with 5:55 left in regulation.

Fortunately for Bethel, Clevon Constantine and Jayvin Williams answered the challenge. Constantine gave the Warriors the momentum seconds after Kenworthy’s basket by driving the baseline and tossing in a reverse layup. Seconds later, Williams dropped in a free throw that built the Warriors’ lead to five, at 41-36.

Gallahorn didn’t let Kotzebue die. He pushed in six of his game-high 15 points in the final eight minutes, including a short jumper that helped the Huskies move to within three, at 43-40, with less than 3 minutes left.

James Flemings delivered the knockout blow for Bethel seconds later. The left-hander pulled down an offensive rebound moments after Gallahorn’s basket and pushed in back, drawing a foul that he turned into a free throw and a 46-40 lead.

Bethel closed out the contest with a 6-2 run – with all six points coming from the free throw line.

One of three BRHS scorers to finish in double figures offensively, Williams led Bethel’s attack. He netted a team-high 13 points. Darrell Garrison and Flemings finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

The win helped Bethel avenge a first-round loss to Kotzebue on Thursday.

Kotzebue fell into the second-place game via a 55-39 loss to Barrow in the conference championship game on Friday.

ASAA Class 3A State Basketball Tournament

March 23-15 in Anchorage

First round

8 a.m. – Monroe vs. Sitka

9:30 a.m. – Delta vs. Barrow

3:30 p.m. — Valdez vs. ACS

5 p.m. – Grace Christian vs. Bethel