The Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball team overcame early turnovers to defeat the Chugiak Mustangs 70-54 in the first game of a four-game northern road trip.
“We had some sloppy play to start, a lot of turnovers, uncharacteristic and something you don’t want to see,” Thunder Mountain coach John Blasco said. “But we were able to settle down, create pressure and everybody got a chance to play in the win.”
The Falcons big three of seniors Thomas Baxter, James Polasky and Samuel Lockhart each found multiple scores in the first quarter but Polasky also was whistled for his second foul and went to the bench with TM leading 12-10. Two Baxter free throws and a couple Lockhart layups pushed the cushion to 18-14 but the Falcons fouled Chugiak junior Peyton Harr on a shot past the arch at the buzzer and he made all three free throws to close the game to 18-17.
Polasky would be needed inside early in the second quarter, returning to the court and scoring on an offensive rebound. Senior Lance Nierra hit from past the arch to keep pace with two Chugiak scores from junior Ryder Harr, and Polasky added a step-back three and a fallback shot inside to push the Falcons to a 29-21 lead.
For good measure Polasky blocked his third shot of the game with 3:05 left to play before halftime. Baxter would add a putback and a shot past the arch as the Falcons went into halftime leading 36-28.
“He (Polasky) was able to get some high deflections on balls and he is doing a good job inside the paint for us,” Blasco said. “He was feeling pretty confident tonight.”
TMHS blew the game open in the third quarter with Lockhart setting up shop past the arch three times and adding two free throws for 11 points, while Baxter scored 10 points, including two shots past the arch. Polasky notched a basket and two free throws and senior TJ Guevarra added a basket.
“In the third quarter we were able to put on a little run and created quite a bit of separation,” Blasco said. “Chugiak came off of a tough loss last night (Tuesday) to Dimond High School by six points and one of their top players got hurt. So they were down a man tonight.”
The Falcons pressure limited the Mustangs to just five points in the third quarter and TMHS led 64-33 starting the final stanza.
The Falcons were outscored 21-6 in the fourth quarter, with baskets coming from senior Krishna Sanguni and sophomore Joren Gasga, as they explored multiple player combinations.
Blasco said defense was the key for the Falcons win.
“We realized they were down a man and our guards picked up the pressure in the third quarter,” he said. “We were able to force some turnovers around mid-court which results in quick transition buckets where you can build your momentum and bring your energy level up. With the win it was a good way to start the trip and everybody got a chance to play.”
Baxter led the Falcons with 21 points, Polasky added 17, Lockhart 13, Sanguni six, senior Kasen Ludeman and Guevarra four apiece, Nierra three and Gasga two.
TMHS hit 12-15 from the charity stripe, CHS 14-21.
Senior Semaj Walker led the Mustangs with 19 points, R. Harr added 14, junior Owen Dockstader six, senior Knud Larsen four, junior Cole Kalai and P. Harr three apiece, senior Vince Gonderzik and sophomore Jacob Lane two apiece and junior Will Curtis one.
The Falcons are 7-3 overall and have not started their Southeast Conference schedule. They will next play in the South Anchorage tournament facing Lathrop today, either Petersburg or South on Friday and a final game on Saturday.