Monday, April 15, 2024
HomeSportPrep Hoops: Thunder Mountain upsets second-ranked Service to advance to first 4A...

Prep Hoops: Thunder Mountain upsets second-ranked Service to advance to first 4A boys state final in school’s last dance

Thunder Mountain’s Thomas Baxter hangs in the lane for a tough bucket. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

The storybook state tournament run by the Thunder Mountain boys basketball team scripted a new chapter Friday night, thanks to Thomas Baxter.

In this version of March Madness, Cinderella stands 6-foot-3 with a shaved head, scruffy beard and tattoos.

Baxter, an all-state senior, led the unranked Falcons to their second straight upset at the Class 4A boys state tournament, this time beating second-ranked Service 48-45 in overtime in the Final Four at the Alaska Airlines Center.

Thunder Mountain’s edge-of-your-seat win was made possible only after Baxter stood on his head at crunch time to lift the Falcons into the state championship game for the first time in the school’s final season.

“Dream come true. The ‘Final Falcons,’” Baxter said. “I’m happy to be with these guys. We’ve been through a lot the last four years. We’ve got a lot of seniors and we’re just happy to get here.”

ASAA/First National Bank Alaska
Class 4A Boys State Tournament
At Alaska Airlines
Friday
Semifinals

#1 East Anchorage 45, #3 Monroe Catholic 39
Thunder Mountain 48, #2 Service 45
Consolation
#5 West Anchorage 69, Palmer 62
#4 West Valley 57, Wasilla 42
Saturday
10:30am Fourth Place Game
#5 West Anchorage (19-10) vs. #4 West Valley (22-5)
10:30am Third Place Game
#3 Monroe Catholic (21-6) vs. #2 Service (21-9)
7:30pm Title Game
#1 East Anchorage (27-1) vs. Thunder Mountain (21-9)
# ASR/Class 4A Coaches Poll rankings

Baxter scored 23 points, keyed by 7-for-7 free-throw shooting. He made two foul shots with 1 second left in regulation to force OT, where he put the Falcons ahead for good after draining two free throws with 54 seconds left.

Thunder Mountain opened the state tournament Wednesday by knocking off fourth-ranked West Valley in OT, then the Falcons pulled the rug out from Service by pulling a rabbit from their hat.

With his team trailing 42-40 with 2.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Thunder Mountain coach John Blasco dipped deep into the playbook and called on Kasen Ludeman to impersonate Grant Hill from 1992.

Ludeman’s 80-foot pass found Baxter inside the opposite foul line, where Baxter was bumped as he went up to grab the pass and fell to the ground to draw a foul. And because his team was in the bonus, he got two free throws with 1.5 seconds left and swished them both to force OT.

“I was just thinking, ‘calm down,’” Baxter said. “I knew I could knock ‘em down and I just had confidence in myself.”

Thomas Baxter fires up the crowd. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

The free throws were nice, but the pass was everything. In 1992, Duke famously pulled off an improbable win over Kentucky at the NCAA Tournament after Hill threw a similar length-of-the-court pass to Christian Laettner for the game-winner. This time it was Ludeman to Baxter.

“Kasen threw one hell of a pass to Thomas,” Blasco said. “He’s a baseball player so the arm was in there and we had him throw it deep.”

Not only did Baxter make both free throws, but 90 seconds earlier he had drilled a 3-pointer to pull the Falcons within 40-39.

“Ice in his veins,” Blasco said. “These guys are so much fun.”

In OT, Baxter’s reverse layup tied the game 44-44. He zig-zagged through traffic in the paint to draw a foul and hit two free throws to put Thunder Mountain ahead for good at 46-45.

The guy hit big shots all night. The bigger the moment, the taller he stood.

“I give props to my teammates. They keep me confident. They keep me humble,” Baxter said. “They believe in me and know I can hit that shot and those free throws, and I just felt like I was gonna hit because they had a bunch of confidence in me, my coaching staff, it was just really helpful.”

Thunder Mountain coach John Blasco draws up a play in the huddle. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

James Polasky’s layup pushed Thunder Mountain’s lead to 48-45 with 31 seconds to play, forcing Service to hit a 3-pointer to force a second OT. It didn’t happen and the fairy-tale ending continued for Thunder Mountain, which is scheduled to be consolidated with the capital city’s original high school next season.

The Cougars fell into the third-place game after letting this one slip away. Toby Howard pumped in 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting and put on a low-post clinic.

The 6-foot-8 junior standout scored 12 of his team’s first 20 points before foul trouble forced him to the bench. In the third quarter, his post shot gave Service a 36-32 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Howard’s left-handed hook shot gave the Cougars a 40-34 lead. The lead didn’t last. Not that one, not the one late in regulation and not the one early in OT.

The Falcons feel like destiny is riding shotgun.

“These boys have been building for four years to get this this point,” Blasco said. “They don’t quit.”

THUNDER MOUNTAIN (48) – Nierra 7, Ribao 0, Guevarra 0, Saceda-Hurt 0, Gasga 0, Ludeman 5, Lockhart 9, Garcia 0, Ssanguni 0, Thomas 0, Polasky 4, Baxter 23.
SERVICE (45) – Balmes 3, Henderson 0, Morgan 4, Dillard 2, Zadra 6, Tautua 5, Gracey 0, L.Lockard 4, Christophersen 0, T.Lockard 0, Kennedy 0, Howard 21.
Thunder Mountain 11 13 8 10 6 – 48
Service 15 8 11 8 3 – 45

Service’s Mackeenan Morgan goes up for a shot with James Polasky defending. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

Additional Article Sponsors:Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO’s | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose’s Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie – Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited | Moria Smith | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Peter Pounds | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | RSA Engineering |

RELATED ARTICLES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd Movies 2024 Hd