Courtesy Daily Sitka Sentinel
Coming off the long Christmas break, it wasn’t clear if the Mt. Edgecumbe Braves had what it takes to make a postseason run in 2012. They didn’t have much size. The rotation was thin. And it wasn’t clear who would step into the scoring void left by the departure of the team’s four top players from the squad that won the Southeast title in 2011.
Coach Archie Young likes to preach the importance of getting better everyday and that’s what the Braves did. They beat Juneau-Douglas for the second straight time in the capitol, finished second at the Region V tournament, earned a state tournament bid and rallied from 16 points down to stun Barrow in overtime Thursday at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
The Braves found themselves in the third-place game Saturday after a 65-49 loss to Anchorage Christian in the semifinals and fell to Nome to finish fifth in the state.
Like most teams, Edgecumbe ended the season on a loss. But Young said that shouldn’t diminish what the Braves were able to accomplish in a season that began with four new starters.
“After the game, I didn’t want the two losses to mar what we had done all season,” Young said. “Especially considering how much improvement they made. This group made some tremendous strides. It’s a credit to them, they did a really good job of getting better and getting more comfortable.”
Young credited senior Cody Sherman for setting the tone for the Braves with his hard work in practice. “His work ethic and leadership were invaluable,” Young said of Sherman, who had perhaps his best game of the season against Barrow, scoring 20 points.
Young said Sherman’s aggressive play on offense was a big part of the Braves’ surge in the second half of the season. Young had three other seniors: Jaylin Prince, Calvin Frankson and Brian Nick.
Prince, a three-time state champion wrestler, developed into a top player for MEHS this season. He ended up on the all-tournament and, surprisingly for a post player, won the 3A three-point contest Saturday.
The Braves ran into a hot-shooting Nanooks squad Saturday in the third-place game. Nome shot 54.5 percent from behind the three-point arc for the game. Leading 16-14 after the first quarter, Nome built a 9-point halftime lead. The Nanooks scored first in the third quarter and led by double digits the rest of the way.
Nome had three scorers in double digits, including 6’8’’ sophomore center Cass Mattheis, who had 14 points, grabbed 11 boards and blocked 5 shots. Tyler Eide also had 14 for Nome, while Nathan Blandford scored 13 and Jens Ireland had 8. Jaylin Prince led MEHS with 13 points and 11 boards and Dominique Hall scored 11 and got 7 rebounds. Leo Ford chipped in with 7 for the Braves.
Young said the effort the Braves exerted in two previous games may have taken its toll against Nome. They dug out of a deep hole against Barrow and managed to play ACS even in the final two quarters after falling behind early.
“I don’t want to make excuses for us, I just don’t think we put forth the same effort,” he said.
Young added: “Overall, it was a good year. It was a success from the standpoint of the improvements we made. This team definitely got a lot better.”
The MEHS boys entered Friday’s semifinal game riding a high after the comeback win over Barrow. But the defending champion ACS Lions came out firing in the game and led 17-5 after the first quarter. The Braves trailed by 16 at the half. The MEHS boys matched ACS in the final two quarters but were unable to erase the Lions’ advantage.
Back-to-back threes by junior Leo Ford made it a 10-point game at 51-41 with 3:40 to play in the game, but the Lions did not allow MEHS did not within single digits down the stretch._
Sophomore guard Calvin Hoffman had 20 points for ACS, while state player of the year Gus Simmer scored 17 and grabbed 12 rebounds. Colton Anres scored 10 points and Nathan Simmers had 9. Kacy Green, who played all 32 minutes, led MEHS with 21 points, while Cody Sherman had 10. ACS beat the Braves 36 to 24 on the boards.
The Braves earned a measure of Southeast bragging rights with their fifth-place finish. Sitka High beat MEHS three times this season, including in the Region V championship game. But the Wolves finished sixth overall at state.
Braves 65, Barrow 61
ANCHORAGE – There’s a lot of fight in the Mt. Edgecumbe High School Braves. If nothing else, the Braves are always competitive. But Mt. Edgecumbe senior Cody Sherman did not feel good about the way the Braves’ first-round state tournament game was going Thursday at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
“I kind of thought we were going to lose, to be honest,” Sherman said.
Sherman had good reason to be pessimistic. The athletic and talented Barrow Whalers were red hot, knocking down shots from all over the court as they jumped out to a 22-6 lead after the first quarter. The Whalers were a step ahead of the Braves, who seemed stunned as they fell behind by double digits in the blink of an eye. Even coach Archie Young thought his squad was headed for a first-round defeat.
“If you’re not thinking it might be over, you’re not being honest,” Young said.
Turns out it wasn’t over. The Braves rallied and beat Barrow 65-61 in overtime to advance to the semifinals tonight, where they’ll face the defending state champion Anchorage Christian School Lions. ACS features Gus Simmers, the state player of the year, and the Lions handed the Braves a first-round defeat in 2011 on their way to claiming the 3A title.
Young admitted that his state preparation was limited to Barrow, but he said he was looking forward to a shot at the Lions.
“If you don’t want to play a team like that, something’s wrong,” Young said.
Young was beaming after the Braves’ win Thursday. “I’m just so proud of their effort,” he said.
And Sherman, who ended up with 20 points and 5 rebounds, said it felt great to get a win over a very good Barrow team. Fellow senior Jaylin Prince said things changed for the Braves at the end of the second quarter. They cut the Barrow lead to 9 and came out of the halftime break sensing they could get back into the game.
“We kind of ended the second half on a run and we stuck with that,” Prince said.
The Braves scored the first nine points of the third quarter to tie the game. From there, the game featured 10 ties and 10 lead changes as the crowd swelled at the 3A court to watch a hard-fought seesaw battle. It had appeared that the Braves were going to get run out of the gymnasium and into the losers bracket, but somehow the squad from Japonski Island was right back in the thick of things.
Leo Ford nailed a three that gave the Braves their first lead of the game at 34-32 with 4:35 left in the third. Barrow led 40-39 as the fourth quarter opened and the biggest lead of the final frame for either team came with 2:01 left as Sherman scored a three-point play to put MEHS up 54-50. Speedy Barrow point guard Colin Long came down and nailed a long three on the other end that cut the Edgecumbe lead to a point. Barrow tied the game 54-54 at the free throw line and Edgecumbe got the ball back for one last shot with 45 seconds left. MEHS played for one shot. As the final seconds ticked down, Kacy Green got to the lane and dished to Jaylin Prince on the block. But Eddie Benson swatted Prince’s shot away and sent the game to overtime.
From there, the Braves won the game at the free throw line, making 9-12 in the extra frame to earn the victory. Long did his best to keep the Whalers in the game. A bucket by Long with 16 seconds left made the score 62-61, but Green sank two clutch-free throws to extend the Edgecumbe lead to 64-61. Then Sherman closed it out, stealing a Barrow inbounds pass with 7 seconds left. Sherman soared to grab the ball, got fouled and made a free throw to put the game out of reach at 65-61.
Prince had 16 and 5 boards and Dominique Hall had 15 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Ford and Green each scored 7 points.
Long had 19 points and 5 assists for the Whalers, while Benson scored 19 and grabbed 6 boards. Eben Olemaun added 12 points for Barrow.
Coach Young said the Braves shot about 63 percent from the free throw line during the season, but the Braves were 16-22 Thursday, which came to 73 percent. The Braves turned the ball over only 13 times, compared to 18 for Barrow.