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By ALEX BOSWORTH
Daily News Staff Writer
A shot in the paint that wouldn’t go down. A missed rebound.
The Ketchikan High School girls basketball team was just a play or two away from defeating Southeast Conference rival Juneau-Douglas on Saturday during the Dimond Lady Lynx Prep Shootout tournament in Anchorage. When all was said and done however, the Crimson Bears edged the Lady Kings by a point, 42-41, to take fourth place in the 16-team tournament’s gold bracket. Ketchikan took sixth place after going 2-2 through the tournament.
“We showed ourselves and Juneau that we’re right there ready to compete,” Ketchikan head coach Kelly Smith said.
It came down to the last minute.
Trailing by a point, Ketchikan stole the ball and called timeout. On the ensuing play, Brittany Slick was fouled and hit two free throws to put Ketchikan ahead 41-40 with 51 seconds remaining. Juneau then answered with a layup to retake the lead.
Ketchikan had a chance to go ahead with about 10 seconds remaining on an ideal shot — senior AJ Dela Cruz got into the paint for a short jumper — but she couldn’t get it to go down.
“AJ got a great 8, 10-footer look right in the middle of the lane,” Smith said. “... You couldn’t get a better shot. It was a great look.”
Ketchikan then fouled to put Juneau at the line, but couldn’t secure a missed free throw. Juneau regained possession and ran out the clock.
Slick led Ketchikan with 15 points and shot 3 of 5 from behind the 3-point line. Ashley Huffine added 8 points, three assists, three rebounds and three steals. Hannah Maxwell led all players in rebounding with nine and helped limit Juneau-Douglas’ standout freshman, Kendyl Carson, to 6 points and eight rebounds. Dela Cruz had 5 points and four rebounds for Kayhi.
Juneau-Douglas was led by Caitlin Pusich’s 21 points. She shot 8 for 8 from the free-throw line and had a number of drives or layups against the smaller Ketchikan team.
Smith saw a number of “little things” his team can work on.
“That offensive rebound at the end,” he said, “we gave up a couple of those where we did our job boxing out and then we just didn’t go get the basketball. We did that three or four times. We gotta clean that up. And then a couple bad turnovers. I think we turned it over three times in the last couple minutes for not really any reason.”
Kayhi was swept by Juneau-Douglas in a road series earlier this year, losing by 7 and 18 points. Saturday’s loss was much, much closer.
“There’s way more positives than negatives,” Smith said. “We attacked the basket well, we created some mismatches, we guarded (Carson) very well, she had 6. She had 26 on us in Juneau. ... We gotta clean up little things. That’s good because it keeps us hungry and it keeps us working to get better.”
“We were 1-6 in January, we’re sitting in February at 4-2, we’re getting better every day,” he added.
Dela Cruz was named to the all-tournament team for her performance throughout the four-day event.
During the tournament, Kayhi defeated Lathrop, the No. 2 team in the state by Winning Percentage Index, and lost to Dimond, the No. 3 team in the state by WPI. The Lady Kings also defeated Soldotna on a last-second 3-pointer by Dela Cruz.
“The only team you’re missing in the top 5 is East,” Smith said, “and we just played ourselves to sixth place, which, two weeks ago no one would have said we’d have been close to that.”
Kayhi: AJ Dela Cruz 5, Brittany Slick 15, Ashley Huffine 8, Hannah Maxwell 2, Sarah McClennan 3, Kyra Welker 4, Payton Simmons 4.
Juneau-Douglas: Kendyl Carson 6, Alyxn Bohulano 4, Caitlin Pusich 21, Cassie Dzinich 7, Skylar Hickok 4.