Trailing big in the second half, Tikigaq standout senior Joelian Lane put his team on his back, exploding for 17 fourth-quarter points and seemingly willing his team to a stunning 67-63 win over Metlakatla in the 2A ASAA/First National Bank Alaska State Championships on Friday.
Metlakatla led by 18 points in the third quarter and was up 51-35 entering the fourth quarter of play before the Harpooners made their shocking comeback, ending the championship hopes of the seven seniors on the Chiefs squad.
The comeback was capped by a long 3-pointer from Benjamin Lane that banked in with 15 seconds left to put Tikigaq up 66-63, the first lead of the game for the Harpooners. A missed 3-pointer from Metlakatla and a final free-throw by the Harpooners closed out the victory.
Down 53-38 with six minutes to play, Lane scored 11 points and assisted on the other basket in a 14-4 two-minute blitz that suddenly turned a blowout into a tense game, cutting Metlakatla’s lead to 57-52.
The Chiefs appeared to have regained control when a pair of Harpooners fouled out and another was called for a technical foul. Metlakatla made three free throws of the foul and technical and had the ball with a 60-52 lead and three minutes to play.
But Tikigaq kept coming. After a Metlakatla turnover, Jacob Lane hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead back to five.
A layup by Joelian Lane, after a steal and assists from Jacob Lane, cut the lead to 63-60 with 1:24 remaining. After a missed 3-pointer by Metlakatla, Joelian Lane drove to the basket, was fouled, made the layup and the ensuing free throw to tie the game 63-63 with 61 seconds left.
After another turnover by Metlatkatla, Benjamin Lane then banked in the game-deciding 3-pointer.
After the game, in an interview on the NFHS network, Joelian Lane credited his coach with inspiring him to attack in the fourth quarter.
“I told him I was giving up. He told me not to,” Lane said. “I thought we were losing this one.”
“Their heart and effort, it’s Tikigaq, that’s what we do,” Tikigaq coach Teddy Frankson said. “We play together, we work hard all together, whether it is whaling or community, we all work together and come together. There’s no doubt in my mind, if my boys, my players come out and give everything they have, we will come out on top.”
Metlakatla scored the first four points of the game and led 16-8 after the first quarter of play. The Chiefs were up 32-17 with a minute remaining in the first quarter when Joelian Lane gave a glimpse of the magic he would bring again at the end of the game. Lane hit a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left in the half, then swished another 3-pointer from half court to cut the Metlakatla lead to 32-23 at the half.
Coming out of the half, Metlakatla seemed unfazed, with Jayden Buhler hitting a 3-pointer 10 seconds into the half to send the momentum back in the Chiefs direction.
A 3-pointer by Harvey Booth, a transition layup by Shayne Anderson, and a free throw from Cameron Gaube gave Metlakatla its largest lead, 49-31, late in the third quarter.
Despite appearing hobbled and a bit off on his shooting, Joelian Lane still had 19 points entering the fourth quarter, then turned up the pace, scorching the nets for 17 more points and finishing with a game-high 36 points, matching his scoring total from Tikigaq’s first-round 64-41 win over Wrangell.
Lane hit a pair of 3-pointers and was 8 of 17 from the free-throw line in the game, making his final six free throws after hitting only two of his first 11. Lane had five steals and five assists.
Gaube led Metlakatla with 16 points. Trinity Jackson had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Jayden Buhler added 12 points, and Harvey Booth scored 11.
The Chiefs played without Mason Rolando, who dislocated his knee in Thursday’s 50-33 win over Cordova. Senior center Aaron O’Brien, who injured his foot in warmups before the Cordova game, attempted to play briefly late in the first quarter, but was in the game less than a minute before having to limp off.
Tikigaq plays Ninilchik for the state championship at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Ninilchik beat Petersburg 53-42 in its semifinal on Friday.
Metlakatla squares off against Southeast rival Petersburg for third place at 12:30 p.m.