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By JOE JUDD
Daily News Staff Writer
The Ketchikan High School girls basketball team defeated the Juneau-Douglas High School Lady Crimson Bears 59-50 in the semifinal round of the Region V (4A) Tournament on Wednesday night at the Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium.
After the pair of Southeast conference rivals faced off four times during the regular season, it was Kayhi who prevailed in their first postseason matchup.
Both teams sprinted out of the gates and scored transition baskets to begin the game, until turnovers and fouls forced Kayhi and JDHS to play a more methodical half-court game.
Through the opening eight minutes of play, the Lady Kings starters found themselves in a cold spell, but the bench players picked up most of the slack.
Ten of Kayhi’s first 15 points came off the bench, with sophomore Nadire Zhuta depositing a trio of 3-pointers between the final five minutes of the first quarter and the opening minutes of the second quarter.
It was Zhuta’s shots from beyond the arc that gave the Lady Kings their first lead of the game in the second quarter. She finished with 12 points on the night, 11 of which came in the first half.
At the end of the first half, Kayhi clung to a slim 32-28 lead, but a ticket to the 4A championship game was still a long way from being punched for both schools.
With the game still up for grabs to begin the second half, the Kayhi and Juneau-Douglas girls traded baskets and leads for the entirety of the third quarter.
Kayhi led its rivals by just two points after three quarters of play.
In the fourth quarter, it was the Lady Kings’ defense that took over and put the finishing touches on the win, forcing Juneau-Douglas to commit costly turnovers in the final minutes.
The Lady Crimson Bears turned the ball over 18 times in the second half, compared to Kayhi’s 15 turnovers for the entire game.
In the final minute of play, Kayhi was sent to the foul line in bunches, eventually going up by three scores to put the game out of reach.
As a team, the Lady Kings went 18-for-27 from the free-throw line, grabbed eight offensive rebounds and came down with 16 boards on the defensive end.
Sophomore Ashley Huffine deposited 12 points for the Lady Kings, while junior Brittany Slick netted 11 points and went 5-for-7 from the foul line.
Kayhi will next play at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night against either Juneau-Douglas or Thunder Mountain, where a fifth-consecutive region title will be on the line.
JDHS and TMHS play at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday.
Kayhi: Ashley Huffine 12, Nadire Zhuta 12, Brittany Slick 11, Payton Simmons 8, Hannah Maxwell 8, Madison Rose 5, Lianne Gueverra 2, Emmie Smith 1.
Thunder Mountain: Caitlin Pusich 19, Cassie Dzinch 17, Sadie Tuckwood 8, Kiara Potter 2, Alyxn Bohulano 2, Janae Pusich 2.