FAIRBANKS — The Monroe Rams finally met their match Saturday night in the championship game of the 33rd annual Cougar Tip Off Classic basketball tournament in Anchorage.
After opening their season with four wins in as many days, the Rams ran into a tough Service squad that rolled to a 34-9 halftime lead and never looked back as the Cougars claimed a 60-36 victory in the title game of the boys high school basketball tournament.
“That’s the most talented and well-coached team in the state,” Monroe Catholic coach Frank Ostanik said Saturday evening. “They’re really good and they played great tonight. They shot the ball really well.”
The Cougars jumped out to a 19-4 lead in the first quarter and expanded the margin to 34-9 at the break. The Cougars outscored the Rams 18-7 in the third quarter, before Monroe went on a
20-10 run in the fourth.
“The first couple of minutes we kind of felt each other out, then we only scored four points in the first quarter and you’re not going to win too many games doing that,” Ostanik said. “I knew it was going to be an uphill battle. It’s been a long time since anybody did that to us.”
Ostanik placed the blame for the loss squarely on his shoulders.
“The mistake I made was in preparation for the game,” Ostanik said. “I think I scared our guys and made them hesitant.”
Ostanik said he didn’t think playing five games in five days had anything to do with Monroe’s performance.
“We played four games in four days and the fourth game was our best, so I don’t think playing five games in five days would make it any different,” he said. “I think we played a great team tonight and didn’t come into the game with the right mindset and that’s my fault.”
Ostanik hopes his players will learn from the experience.
“I want to make it a positive,” he said. “Losing is not the end of the world and we’re going to learn from this and get better during the next three months.”
All-tournament team member Amu Aukusitino scored 11 of his game-high 17 points to lead the way for the Cougars. He had four 3-pointers, including three in the first quarter. M. Robinson added 13 points for the champions, while tournament MVP Adam Klie added 10 points. Kyllele Brown also made the all-tournament team.
Jalon McCullough led the Rams with 14 points, including four 3-pointers. David Stepovich added six. Scooter Bynum and Tyler Wells were all-tournament selections.
Eagle River finished in third place and Thunder Mountain was the consolation champion.
Monroe Catholic returns to action Friday night when it hosts Wasilla.
The Delta Junction Huskies jumped on Eielson early and controlled the rest of the game in posting a 52-43 win against the Eielson Ravens in an Aurora Conference game Saturday night at Eielson.
“They controlled the game right from the get-go,” said Eielson coach Kelly Growden. “Their point guard, Daniel Zhdanov, did a great job of handling the ball, running the offense and setting the tempo of the game.”
Jim Crabtree and Aaron Williams scored 15 points apiece for a balanced Delta attack, while Zhdanov tallied nine.
Jovante Kincade had a monster night for Eielson, scoring 27 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, but it wasn’t enough for the Ravens to come all the way back in the second half.
“He had a huge game for us,” Growden said. “He was hitting from inside and outside. He was doing everything right for us.”
Eielson returns to action Friday night hosting the North Pole Patriots.