Newhalen rallies past Buckland in OT to take third
ANCHORAGE — The Newhalen Malamutes were down to their last hope - and shot — on Saturday morning in their third-place showdown with the Buckland Sissauni at the 2017 Class 2A State Basketball Championships. Then Josh Clark managed to do the unthinkable. He highlighted a 7-0 run in the final 58 seconds by dropping in a desperation shot at the buzzer that tied the game at 77-77 and sent the game into overtime.
The Malamutes didn't waste the chance at new life. In what may well have been the best game of the tournament, Newhalen outscored Buckland by a 15-11 clip in the 4-minute overtime period and escaped with a wild 92-88 victory.
"This team has been coming back all season," said Newhalen head coach Bob Rychnovsky. "They never give up. They have a lot of heart. As long as there was time left on the clock, we knew we had a chance."
A chance is something that didn't look too promising in the final seconds. Buckland's Ronald Jones staked the Sissauni to a 7-point lead with 58 seconds left by hitting a pair of free throws.
Senior Douglas Kalmbacher refused to let the Malamutes go down quietly. He drove inside for a basket with 39 seconds left and cut Buckland's lead to 5. Just 15 seconds later, Matthew Tretikoff pulled up from deep on the left wing and drained a three-point shot that pulled Newhalen to within two, at 77-75.
The Malamutes caught a break a few seconds later. The Sissauni missed a chance to up the lead by missing the front end of a one-and-one opportunity from the charity stripe.
The miss proved costly. Newhalen pulled down the ensuing rebound and marched down court before lofting a pass into the paint to Clark, who spun and tossed up the game-tying shot.
"We had faith in our team the whole time," said Kalmbacher, who finished the game with 30 points and eight rebounds. "I knew we would come back. We're a resilient team."
Tretikoff handed Newhalen its first lead since 1:11 in the second quarter just 4 seconds into the extra frame by drilling a three-point shot. Moments later Clark turned a steal into another easy basket and an 82-77 cushion.
Buckland never recovered.
The Malamutes didn't appear as if they would need any OT heroics early on. Newhalen opened the game with a stunning 11-0 run, and raced into the start of the second period with a 27-21 advantage.
Jones and Martin Hadley helped the Sissauni fight its way back. They combined for the first seven points of the second and led Buckland to a 29-27 lead with 6:30 left in the first half.
As a team, Buckland outscored Newhalen by a 19-11 margin in the second and rolled into the half holding a 40-38 lead.
The Sissauni continued to push its lead in the third. Buckland pounded out a 23-15 spree in the frame and built a 10-point advantage into the final eight minutes of play.
Buckland had no shortage of offensive stars. As a team, the Sissauni had six different players score into double figures in the contest, including 18 from Martin Hadley and 14 more from Brandon Armstrong. Jones added 13, while Isaiah Kirk chipped in 11 and Jayden Hadley and Lenny Hadley tallied 10 each.
Newhalen fought its way back, outscoring Buckland by a 24-14 clip in the fourth to tie the game on the final shot.
"This was our last game with Douglas," said Tretikoff, who finished the game with 29 points and seven rebounds. "We really wanted to win and we were desperate so we went out and fought hard all the way until the end."
In addition to double-digit nights from Kalmbacher and Tretikoff, the Malamutes also picked up outstanding efforts from Jared Paine, who posted 10 points and pulled down six rebounds, and Clark, who tallied 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
The Malamutes, sparked by double-digit efforts from Kalmbacher and Clark, opened the tournament on Wednesday with a rousing 63-59 victory over Anaktuvuk Pass. Kalmbacher finished with 17 points and 13 boards, while Clark had 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Tretikoff and Painne also reached double figures for the Malamutes, tallying 12 and 10, respectively.
Newhalen continued to roll on Thursday, downing Nikolaevsk by a 52-40 victory in the quarterfinals.
In the win, Clark posted his second double-double of the tournament by pushing home 20 points and grabbing 11 boards. Paine added 11 points, while Kalmbacher chipped in nine.
Newhalen's lone loss of the tournament came in the semifinals on Friday with a 56-51 loss to Gambell, the eventual Class 1A state runner-up.
Clark continued to turn heads, finishing with his third double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Kalmbacher narrowly issued a double-double, netting 20 points and nine boards.