At 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-4 respectively, Juneau-Douglas High School’s Erik Kelly and Kolby Hoover have at last an inch on the entire Ketchikan High School boys basketball team.
They put that height advantage to good use Saturday night to defeat the Kings 58-53 in Ketchikan and capture their third consecutive Region V 4A boys championship.
Kelly and Hoover hauled in rebound after rebound and scored 34 combined to points spoil the Kings’ championship hopes.
Senior Kasey Watts, who had 14 and 16 points in the two prior games, finished with eight points.
The JDHS boys were ranked last in the regional tournament behind Kayhi and Thunder Mountain High School. They needed to win two in a row against the Kings, a team much higher in state rankings.
“We never stopped believing,” Hoover said. “We know we got the best guys, the best coach.”
Ketchikan junior Marcus Lee scored 19 points, including eight in the first quarter. Younger brother Chris Lee scored a team-high 20 points.
The Crimson Bears lost 58-54 Tuesday to the Kings. Then on Thursday, in their first elimination game, JDHS won over TMHS on a last-second rebound and putback by Kelly.
They won another heated contest the following night against the Kings behind strong outings from Hoover (17 points) and Watts (season-high 16 points).
Despite winning two in a row, Kelly knew he had more to give.
“I haven’t been happy with how I’ve played this tournament and tonight I just really wanted to step it up and be stronger with the ball and be stronger inside and get it done,” Kelly said.
JDHS led 25-19 at halftime and 38-32 at the end of the third quarter.
Kayhi sophomore Kristian Pihl cut the lead down to one, 44-43, midway through the fourth with a 3-pointer and two free throws.
But Kelly and Hoover put JDHS back up seven with six quick points.
Marcus Lee made it a two-point game with under two minutes to go, but Hoover, Kelly and Watts iced the game at the free-throw line.
Like the year before, JDHS entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed and lost its opening game before winning the next three. After JDHS lost on Tuesday night, it was doubtful the team could repeat history.
“No one really expected this out of us and I think we were the only people that expected it out of us,” Hoover said. “And so to make it actually happen, to make our beliefs come true, it’s awesome.”
The tournament left fans on the edge of their seats. All five 4A boys games were decided by an average of five points.
The March Madness Alaska 2018 ASAA 3A/4A state basketball championships are March 22-24 at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.
2018 Region V basketball champions
4A boys: Juneau-Douglas High School
4A girls: Ketchikan High School
3A girls: Sitka High School
3A boys: Mt. Edgecumbe High School
2A girls: Metlakatla High School
2A boys: Metlakatla High School
Region V Free-Throw Contest winners
Girls: Cassie Dzinich (Juneau-Douglas)
Boys: Coleton Hayward (Metlakatla)
Region V 3-Point Contest winners
Girls: Tanisha Nelson (Metlakatla)
Boys: Puna Toutaiolepo (Thunder Mountain)
Region V 4A Girls All-Conference Team
Caitlin Pusich (Juneau-Douglas), Cassie Dzinich (Juneau-Douglas), Nina Fenumiai (Thunder Mountain), Hannah Maxwell (Ketchikan), Brittany Slick (Ketchikan), Ashley Huffine (Ketchikan)
Region V 4A Boys All-Conference Team
Puna Toutaiolepo (Thunder Mountain), Luke Clark (Thunder Mountain), Marcus Lee (Ketchikan), Chris Lee (Ketchikan), Erik Kelly (Juneau-Douglas), Kolby Hoover (Juneau-Douglas)
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.