It almost seemed as if that “next man up” mentality was contagious — as if the Ketchikan High School Kings weren’t going to be denied.
For every time a Kings’ player had a call go against them — or head coach Eric Stockhausen subbed one King for another — in stepped a teammate ready to take the reins, and help guide the Kings to what they hoped would be another shot at a Region V 4A championship.
Thursday’s semifinal inside the hosting Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bears’ gymnasium certainly had its fair share of ups and downs for both sides. But when it was all said and done, Juneau-Douglas wound its way on top.
A short jumper — from the hands of senior Cooper Kriegmont — netted the hoop before the buzzer sounded, and the Crimson Bears won 60-58 in overtime, effectively ending the Kings’ season.
And as reality set in, emotion began to pour out.
Rarely seen from teenage boys, in realizing their season was over, the moment became real.
For four full quarters — plus an extra four minutes — the Kings had rallied together, battling the Crimson Bears.
Four different Kings scored in the first eight minutes, as Ketchikan began to find its rhythm. Despite falling behind 14-12 in the first quarter, the Kings carried a 31-23 lead at the half.
The Kings’ Josh Gentry hit a pair of threes before the break. And Tyler Slick, Kristian Pihl and Albrim Zhuta all knocked down 3-pointers before the intermission.
Ketchikan’s Joeben Lorenzo and James Nordlund also got on the board with a pair of buckets apiece. And Gentry and the Kings’ Chris Lee kept Ketchikan perfect from the free throw line in the first two quarters, going 4-for-4.
Juneau-Douglas also was finding its way to the line in the first half. Averaging a free throw per minute, the Crimson Bears converted 9-of-16 freebies before the break, and 14 of those attempts came in the second quarter.
Juneau-Douglas finished the game 13-of-26 from the line. Ketchikan was 13-for-18.
And as fouls began to mount up for the Kings, the Crimson Bears took advantage.
Despite Juneau-Douglas not attempting a freebie in the third quarter, the Crimson Bears’ Kriegmont turned opportunities into points. Kriegmont, who finished the game with 20 tallies, scored all of them after the break.
Ketchikan tried to stay ahead, as Pihl and Slick hit two more threes in the third quarter, and the Kings had a 44-36 lead as the fourth quarter began.
But two and a half minutes into the fourth, Lee, who had remained quiet on the scoreboard but divvied the ball to his teammates, fouled out.
The Ketchikan senior finished with five points — all from the free throw line. But his ability to facilitate opportunities for his teammates was missed. And the Kings’ 48-40 lead evaporated, as Juneau-Douglas closed out the fourth quarter on a 13-5 run.
The Kings could only muster shots via free throws in the fourth quarter after Lee fouled out.
Ketchikan was called for 23 fouls. Juneau-Douglas was whistled for 16.
Gentry’s ability at the line loomed large, as the Ketchikan junior swished all four of his free throws in the frame, including a pair with 14.8 seconds on the clock to tie the game at 53 apiece, forcing overtime.
But the extra period wouldn’t fall in the Kings’ favor.
Confusion adds to heartbreak
Adding to the heartbreak of the Kings’ finale was the confusion that ensued following Cooper Kriegmont’s game-winning shot.
Kings’ coach Eric Stockhausen was yelling for a timeout when Kriegmont’s shot went through, and a brief moment hung in the air before the buzzer sounded.
The officiating crew gathered near midcourt for several moments, as Juneau-Douglas players celebrated with Kriegmont downcourt.
Referee Joel Osburne then motioned toward the scorer’s table “no shot” — waving his arms straight out from his side — which put the ending into question.
The Kings thought they had life, as Juneau-Douglas players looked momentarily confused.
But then the officiating crew ran off the court, and into their locker room.
All three referees — Osburne, Ron Taug and Brett Bitterman — refused to talk on the record.
Game announcer Keith Perkins, who had called the game over after Kriegmont’s shot, called the game back on when Osburne made his motion. But as the three referees ran off the court, Perkins once again announced the game was over.
Perkins also oversees the officiating crews for the Region V tournament. He spoke with the Daily News on behalf of the officiating crew:
“We, at the bench, were waiting for the referees. They got together and talked (after) the buzzer. They had to decide as to whether or not count the basket. So for us, when the referee came over, he gave the “no shot” indication. What he probably needed to do was “count the basket” (signal).
“And then, as they were running away, one of them turned around and said, ‘The bucket was good.’ So we changed that announcement to, ‘Count the basket. The game is over.’
“So I think their process was wrong. I think they meant to say, initially, that the basket was good. And then, there would’ve been no confusion. But when he came out in front of the coaches and waved his hands, that’s the “no basket” signal. And I think that’s what confused us all.”
Ketchikan: Tyler Slick 12, Josh Gentry 12, Kristian Pihl 12, James Nordlund 10, Chris Lee 5, Joeben Lorenzo 4, Albrim Zhuta 3.
Juneau-Douglas: Cooper Kriegmont 20, Brock McCormick 12, Tad Watson 9, Garrett Bryant 7, Malakai Nichols 5, Austin McCurley 4, LJ Elizarde 3.
*Names and stats courtesy of the official scorebook.