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'The Mosquito' returns to help Newhalen defeat Klawock to reach 1A girls state basketball final

Mar. 16—Newhalen girls basketball coach James Barthelman had an eerie feeling in the second half of his team's semifinal game against Klawock in the Alaska 1A girls basketball tournament on Friday.

With the Malemutes seemingly in control early in the third quarter, Klawock started to pressure the ball and find success on offense, cutting into Newhalen's double-digit lead. The trend was reminiscent of the 2022 championship game featuring the same two teams.

But much like in 2022, Newhalen was up to the task and hung on for a 46-38 win at the Alaska Airlines Center.

The 2022 game went down to the wire and Klawock nearly converted a last-second layup to win.

"That game reminded me a lot of that (championship)," Barthelman said. "Not that we got up to the big first-half lead, but the way they started pressing in the second half, and they just slowly got back in it. It was exactly that type of game. I'm just glad it didn't come down a last-second shot again."

That championship game was also a memorable one for sophomore Pagan Lester. An eighth grader on the 2022 team, Lester was nicknamed "The Mosquito" for her defense, buzzing around and bothering opponents.

On Friday, Lester was back at it as Newhalen built a 29-13 lead at halftime.

"We were just clicking," he said. "(Klawock's Kaiya) Marvin got in foul trouble, and that really hurt them. That's a big presence in the middle and she can score at will because she has so much height on us. And we shot the ball well."

The shooting star in the first half was Analeigh Wassillie, who made three 3-pointers and scored 11 points. Sister Dannika Wassillie added nine in the first half.

Newhalen was seeded No. 4, so by the numbers, it was an upset as Klawock was the top seed. But their loss to Bristol Bay in the regional final was their only loss of the season, and the Malemutes cruised to wins in the first two rounds at state by an average of 39 points.

"I think this week, we just played like we did the rest of the season," Lester said.

Klawock battled back as Marvin scored a dozen points in the second half. Lester said it was a tentative play that bit the Malemutes in the second half.

"We just took our shots," she said. "We just did what we knew we wanted to do. I think in the second half, we expected them to come on strong. They want their revenge, but we should have just kept that mindset we had in the beginning."

[Chants of 'wood yard' and 'moose meat' drive Minto boys in 1A state basketball tournament]

A big run late in the third quarter had Klawock down just seven entering the fourth quarter. The Newhalen lead was just four with 6:40 left but after a two-minute possession, Angela Anelon converted a big layup to make it.

"We weren't even telling them to stall or anything like that," he said. "They were just working it, working it and to get a layup was beautiful."

Klawock stuck close but didn't get any closer. Newhalen, a Western Alaska village, will face Fort Yukon in the title game.

Fort Yukon 48, Shaktoolik 45

Fort Yukon controlled the game for three quarters but Shaktoolik made a furious rally in the fourth quarter that came up just short. Fort Yukon let 27-14 at half and extended its lead to 41-25 entering the fourth quarter.

The Wolverines outscored Fort Yukon 20-7 in the final quarter and had a 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game bounce off the rim.

Twila Strom led Fort Yukon with 13 points and teammate Kylee Carroll added 11 points. Naomi Savetilik led all scorers with 19 points.

Boys

Kake 44, Minto 32

Kake continued to roll through the boys 1A tournament, toppling Minto to advance to Saturday's championship game. Kake held a 25-15 halftime lead and Minto wasn't able to make a significant run in the second half to get within striking distance.

Dominic Ross led all scorers with 18 points for Kake and teammate Keontay Jackson added 11 and 12 rebounds. Marten Capelle had 13 points for Minto.

King Cove 71, Scammon Bay 58

Jager-Sean Brandell scored 27 points and added four assists, four steals and eight rebounds in King Cove's win. Teammate Thomas Mack added 22 points.

King Cove got off to a quick start, leading 33-18 at halftime. Scammon Bay outscored the T-Jacks in the second half but weren't able to meaningfully dent King Cove's lead.

Scammon Bay's Josiah Sundown led all scorers with 31 points.

ASAA 1A State Championship Tournament

At Alaska Airlines Center

Girls

Wednesday

Klawock 36, Brevig Mission 28

Newhalen 69, St. Mary's 28

Napaaqtugmiut 35, Lumen Christi 26

Bristol Bay 54, Skagway 46

Shaktoolik 78, Akiak 28

Nunamiut 39, Birchwood Christian 25

Buckland 58, Scammon Bay 49

Fort Yukon 78, Napaskiak 38

Thursday

Consolations

Scammon Bay 48, Brevig Mission 43

St. Mary's 32, Birchwood Christian 27

Napaskiak 49, Lumen Christi 44

Skagway 56, Akiak 9

Quarterfinals

Klawock 48, Buckland Bay 45

Newhalen 83, Nunamiut 46

Fort Yukon 49, Napaaqtugmiut 44

Shaktoolik 61, Bristol Bay 42

Friday

Consolations

Scammon Bay 76, St. Mary's 49

Buckland 70, Nunamiut 42

Bristol Bay 38, Napaaqtugmiut 37

Skagway 42, Napaskiak 38

Semifinals

Newhalen 46, Klawock 38

Fort Yukon 48, Shaktoolik 45

Saturday

Consolation

Scammon Bay vs. Skagway, 11 a.m. (Main Court)

4th/6th

Buckland vs. Bristol Bay, 9:30 a.m. (Auxiliary)

3rd/5th

Klawock vs. Shaktoolik, 9:30 a.m. (Main Court)

Championship

Newhalen vs. Fort Yukon, 2 p.m. (Main Court)