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By SPENCER GLEASON
Daily News Sports Editor
Metlakatla and Craig high schools know each other well. The two girls’ basketball teams have squared off seven times this season. And two of those games went to overtime.
So when the Miss Chiefs and Lady Panthers went head-to-head in the Region V 2A state second-seed game at Mt. Edgecumbe High School on Saturday, Craig head coach DJ Hansen knew it would be a battle.
“I think every game has been five to seven points,” he said. “I mean, we’ve got a lot of experience. And (Metlakatla’s) girls are playing hard. And it can go either way until the end.”
Indeed, it did. Even after the Lady Panthers carried a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter, 36-26, the Miss Chiefs’ defense zeroed in, and nearly shut down Craig’s scoring in the final frame.
Craig only scored four points in the fourth — two of which were free throws.
“Believe you and me, I was not feeling good about any of this,” Hansen said. “Even with two minutes to go. We’ve been there (before).”
Metlakatla’s defense gave its offense a chance to make a run at a state playoff berth. But the ball wouldn’t bounce their way. And Craig won 40-36.
“You get to the fourth quarter of a game, and (nerves) creep in on you,” Hansen said. “Our fourth quarter plan was, make (Metlakatla) come and play us, and make them take as much time with every possession as they could. And then we’d come down the floor. All-in-all, it was a great game for the girls.”
Metlakatla jumped out to a quick lead. Lexi Eaton-Milne knocked in a 3-pointer to start the game. And after Craig inched in front, 4-3, the Miss Chiefs’ Uniquea Clark edged Metlakatla ahead 5-4.
But from there, the Lady Panthers took control.
The Lady Panthers’ Kennedy Stumpf and Sarah Yates each had a pair of buckets, and Craig carried a 12-8 lead after the first quarter. And the Lady Panthers extended that lead to 25-15 at the half.
“We did what we wanted, which was to keep them working up and down the court the whole time — from start to finish — just keep them working,” Hansen said. “And then we would just grind the rest of it out. And I think that portion worked in our favor today.”
With the win, Craig advances to the 2A state tournament in Anchorage. The Lady Panthers will play Cordova High School at the Alaska Airlines Center on Thursday at 8 p.m.
Craig: Kennedy Stumpf, 15; Ashley Hansen, 9; Sarah Yates, 6; Shaylee Johnson, 5; Johanna Skan-Allen, 5.
Metlakatla: Alexis Russell, 14; Uniquea Clark, 6; Lexi Eaton-Milne, 6; Victoria Studstill, 3; Samantha Marsden, 3.