Spectators could feel the energy in Monroe Catholic High School’s Boileau Hall through the bleachers when Rams sophomore Katie Bast drew a foul, sending her to the free throw line with 27 seconds left in Monroe’s Thursday game against Ketchikan.
After trailing the Kings by 13 points at halftime, Monroe outscored Ketchikan 26-12 in a second-half rally to take a 40-39 lead with just under a minute to play in the day one Mt. McKinley Bank Holiday Classic matchup.
But just as Bast was heading to the line, looking to make it a three point game, she was pulled off the court. Someone’s fingernail had collided with her nose, drawing blood and leaving Monroe in a bind.
Rules state that athletes who are bleeding must immediately leave the playing area.
Bast had been an integral part of the Rams comeback. After struggling with her jump shot in the first half, the sophomore guard contributed five layups after the break, including the go-ahead basket. Keeping her in the game for the final seconds felt imperative.
A quick discussion between the referees and Monroe head coach Bob Burcell ended with a Monroe timeout, allowing Bast to get a Band Aid and head back out to the free throw line.
“Maggie (Zaverl) ran out and put a BandAid on my face and I felt pretty good that it wouldn’t fall off,” she said. “I just did my routine and I felt confident knowing my coach believed in me.”
Bast, who was 2-for-4 from the free throw line through three quarters, made both baskets, extending the Rams lead to 42-39 and sending the gymnasium into renewed frenzy.
Six seconds later, Rams senior Grace Hodges followed up Bast’s performance at the charity stripe, making the final two baskets in the 44-39 win.
“Actually this season I haven’t been shooting that well so that felt really good for me,” Hodges said about securing the win for her team.
The 5-foot-6 guard finished the night with 12 points — behind only Bast who contributed 18 — and made two key turnovers for points in the third quarter to make it a three-point game.
“One of the big thrills about winning that game is that we beat a 4A school from a very tough Southeast Conference and they’re a good team. We didn’t beat the grammar school in Ketchikan,” Burcell said about the Kings, who came into the matchup with 4-1 record.
Burcell’s Rams squad belongs to the Class 3A Aurora Conference, a division for smaller schools. Alaska’s biggest high schools compete for a state championship in the 4A division.
After halftime Monroe played noticeably more aggressive defense and Burcell encouraged his guards, Bast in particular as she was struggling with her three-point shot, to focus on driving to the basket.
“I said to her, ‘Next time you catch the ball with a clear path, rather than taking the wide open three why don’t you try and get to the basket?’
“The very next time she caught the ball, she went to the basket, she got fouled and she hit free throws,” Burcell said. Although he did admit that the sophomore can normally “light you up” from behind the arch.
Sophomore guard Shelby Eidenmiller was the other Ram to break double-digits with 10 points.
Monroe’s Matteah Felix and Sophia Stepovich also made significant plays.
Felix hit the Rams only three-point shot of the night in the third period, shrinking Ketchikan’s lead to five points. Stepovich blocked Nadire Zhuta’s layup to keep the Kings from regaining a lead late in the fourth period.
Jenae Rhoads led the Kings with 12 points, followed by Zhuta with 11.
Monroe next plays 1-0 Valdez at 6:10 p.m. today. Burcell says how his team responds from Thursday’s win will be key in its game against the Aurora Conference rival.
“We came from behind tonight to beat a good team. So are you going to come out and lay an egg tomorrow or are you going to come out and give me the same effort and work the same way?” he said.
Although today’s Rams-Buccaneers game is between conference competitors, it will not count toward the season’s conference record.
Ketchikan opens day two of the tournament with a matchup against Grace Christian at 3 p.m. today.
Monroe boys come from behind to beat Ketchikan
The Rams rallied from a 42-36 halftime deficit to beat the Class 4A state champion Kings on Thursday in their Holiday Classic opener.
The game was a rematch of Saturday’s semifinal game of the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic at Ketchikan High School, in which the Kings scored two late free throws to beat the Rams 62-61.
Gabe Silas led the Rams with 20 points in Thursday’s game, making six baskets from three point range and one for two points. Teammate Quinn McHenry was also made six baskets from behind the arch for 18 points.
Monroe’s Malachi Bradley also tallied 18 points, making seven baskets from the field, one for three points, and going 3-for-3 from the free throw line.
The Rams made 14 of 16 free throw attempts. The Kings made two of five.
Ketchikan’s Chris Lee made a game-high 47 points.
Ketchikan plays Grace Christian at 4:35 p.m. today. Monroe next plays Valdez at 7:45 p.m. today.
Valdez girls top Grace Christian
The Valdez girls opened the tournament Thursday with a 34-29 win over Grace Christian.
Jillian Lemming led the Buccaneers with 13 points, making three baskets from three-point range. Teammate Reese King contributed 12 points.
Grace Christian’s Tessa Binder made a game-high 18 points.
Grace Christian boys defeat Valdez
Andrew Beck led the Grizzlies with 19 points in their 53-41 win over the Buccaneers on Thursday.
Grace Christian’s Jaren Miller and Nathan Ivanoff each had 12 points. Jalen Freeman tallied a team-best 19 points for the Buccaneers and Jimmy Chavez had 11.
The Grizzlies held a 17-14 lead after eight minutes and extended it to 35-24 by halftime.
Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her online: @FDNMsports.