When it mattered, the Ketchikan High School Lady Kings were able to edge ahead of their rivals — the Juneau-Douglas High School Lady Crimson Bears — on Saturday. And when the final buzzer sounded, in front of a semi-seated Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium, the Lady Kings were on top 47-43.
But getting to that point was a “rollercoaster.”
“Our highs are too high, and our lows are too low at times,” Kayhi head coach Kelly Smith said. “But it was good to see them overcome.”
Down by one at the half, the Lady Kings entered their locker room trailing the Lady Crimson Bears, 18-17.
After squeaking out a slim 12-11 lead after the first eight minutes, the Lady Kings could only muster five points in the second quarter — three, of which, came from the free throw line.
Albeit, Juneau-Douglas only scored six in the second frame, it was the rival who carried the lead after one half.
“In the locker room ... coach (Smith) was telling us how we were playing right now, isn’t how he knows we can play and that we can do better, and it’s up to us,” Lady Kings’ captain Shaelyn Mendoza said. “And then the (third) quarter started, (and) Juneau had their moment for a little while.”
Indeed Juneau-Douglas went on a run, opening the third quarter with a 10-3 scoring spree through the first three minutes — and at one point, had an 11-point lead, 28-17, over the Lady Kings.
But it was after a 30-second timeout, with five minutes left in the frame, that the Lady Kings started to turn the corner.
“We talked to each other,” Mendoza continued, “and were like, ‘We got this. We are the better team. We know we’re the better team. We’ve been working on all of this. We just need to execute it how we do in practice.’
“And then people started hitting shots, people started getting and-ones, and then we all just got hyped and we just kept going.”
Trailing 28-20, Kayhi started to find its rhythm.
Jenae Rhoads hit a shot. Then Paige Boehlert knocked down a three — 28-25.
A bucket by Juneau-Douglas made it 30-25, but the Lady Kings weren’t done.
Rhoads and Mendoza combined to inch the Lady Kings closer, 30-29, and Gabby Mas banked a shot in with 2:45 left in the third quarter to edge Kayhi ahead, 31-30.
And the Lady Kings never looked back.
Mendoza scored three more points — of her game-high 18 — before the frame was through, putting Kayhi ahead 34-32 after three quarters. And the Lady Kings continued to roll along in the final frame.
“At the beginning (of the third quarter), it was, ‘Hey, we need to establish who we are,’” Smith said. “In the middle, it was, ‘Ladies, we’ve got to get rolling because we’re down 11.’ And at the end, it was, ‘Finally. Thank you. That’s how we play.’
“That third (quarter) was all over the place.”
Half of Mendoza’s 18 points came via free throws. She was 9-of-12 from the line.
As a team, the Lady Kings hit 18 free throws in Saturday’s game — a far cry from Friday’s free throw attempts.
Despite winning Friday’s game 37-31, the Lady Kings were only given two free throw attempts. They missed both. Juneau-Douglas was 5-of-11 from the line on Friday.
“We shot two free throws last night, which we were really frustrated with,” Smith said. “Two total. We were 0-for-2. Shae shot (12) free throws tonight, being aggressive.”
And Mendoza was money from the line late in the game Saturday, hitting 5-of-6 in the fourth quarter, including a pair with three seconds left to give Kayhi its 47-43 lead.
“It’s really muscle memory on how you shoot,” Mendoza said of free throws. “Everybody has their prep, with their dribbling and how they handle the ball. ... To make your free throw, you have to memorize how you do it each time, and I just memorize my elbow. That’s all I think about in my free throws.”
After Mendoza hit a shot to start the fourth quarter, Kayhi freshman Bree Johnson sank a 3-pointer, giving the Lady Kings a 39-32 lead to start the last frame. It was one of three threes Kayhi hit on Saturday. Mendoza and Boehlert knocked in the other two.
Boehlert hit four 3-pointers over the weekend, hitting three in Friday’s win.
“Paige has always been able to shoot the ball,” Smith said. “We feel like we have the two most athletic bigs — between Jenae and Lindsay (Byron) — in the state. And if Bree and Paige can hit some shots, we feel like nobody can stop Lindsay and Jenae inside because it keeps everybody honest.
“So we work all the time with Paige and Bree, taking those shots to keep it spread out,” he continued. “And it was good to see Paige hit some.”
Kayhi: Shaelyn Mendoza 18; Lindsay Byron 9; Jenae Rhoads 6; Paige Boehlert 5; Bree Johnson 5; Hya Bondoc 2; Gabby Mas 2.
Juneau-Douglas: Trinity Jackson 17; Jenae Pusich 13; Kiana Potter 6; Skylar Tuckwood 5; Ashley Laudert 2.
*Names and stats courtesy of official scorebook.
Full week ahead
The Lady Kings will keep their foot on the gas pedal the rest of the season.
Kayhi travels to Sitka for a four-game trip against Sitka and Mt. Edgecumbe high schools, beginning Wednesday.
The Lady Kings will face the Mt. Edgecumbe Lady Braves on Wednesday and Thursday, and jump across the bridge for a two-game stint against the Sitka Lady Wolves on Friday and Saturday.
Kayhi will travel back to Ketchikan on Sunday.
But just like this basketball season, Smith and the Lady Kings know scheduling can change from day to day.
“(This weekend) was fun,” he said. “It was good for the kids; good for the community. Now we need to stay healthy so we can travel.”