The Susitna Valley basketball teams traveled to Healy on Friday morning to participate in the Tri-Valley Invitational.
The weekend began inauspiciously with the teams’ bus arriving at Susitna Valley High School late, and delivering the teams to Tri-Valley high school just minutes before the Lady Rams’ first game. Fifteen minutes later, the girls were dressed, warmed up and… tipping off against a West Valley JV team that had already collected a 48-36 win against the host Tri-Valley Viking Warriors on Thursday night.
Sierra Pedersen scored 8 first half points and single handedly put West Valley’s then lead scorer Sunny Gebhardt in foul trouble on route to a 12-12 tie at halftime. Bailey Stevenson scored 8 of the Rams’ 12 third quarter points to pace Susitna Valley to a 24-23 lead after three. Seven and a half game minutes later the Rams gave up an easy bucket off of an inbound pass to Cinge Torres, which gave West Valley JV a 32-29 lead with 30 seconds to play. The Rams pushed the ball up the floor, and set Sierra Pedersen up for a three ball that didn’t fall. However, Sierra O’Connor secured an offensive rebound and put the ball back up for a bucket that drew the Rams within one with 17 seconds to play. The Rams’ Sierra Pedersen fouled out on the ensuing possession to stop the clock and send Maddison Ackiss to the free throw line to shoot one and one with only 8.1 seconds to play. Pedersen left the game as the Rams’ lead scorer with 13 points and Rams’ fans began to accept a likely defeat with their primary ball handler and play maker no longer on the floor. Ackiss missed on her first free throw, but Jasmine Bourne grabbed a rebound for West Valley, and Kat Wollett fouled her immediately to once again stop the clock with 6.9 seconds left to play. Fortunately for the Rams, Bourne would also miss the front end of a one and one. Wollett grabbed the rebound, made an outlet pass to Bailey Stevenson who then dribbled inside the arc and shot just before time expired. The ball hit the square on the backboard and found the net. Many fans and players jumped and screamed as West Valley jaws dropped. The Rams had secured a stunning 33-32 win in their first action at the Invitational. Bailey Stevenson finished the game with 14 points, complimented by Sierra Pedersen’s 13.
The Rams second game of the day on Friday was against the home team Viking Warriors. Strong rebounding and 6 points from Kat Wollett helped the Rams to an eleven point halftime lead. Wollett, Pedersen, and Jeannie Jurasek scored 4 points apiece in the third, giving the Rams a 31-14 lead after three. Behind Wollett’s game high 12 points, they coasted to a 10 point win and a berth in the Ship against the Nenana Lynx who had booked passage with an incredible win over the Glennallen Panthers earlier in the day. Pedersen added 8 points in the game 2 win for the Rams; Stevenson 7, and Jurasek 6.
The Rams played smart, disciplined basketball with exceptional ball control to beat Nenana 42-36 in one of the tournament’s best played games. Trailing by 4 after the first quarter, the Rams surged behind Kat Wollett’s rebounding and 6 points to a team best 15 point second quarter and a 21-16 halftime lead. With the game knotted at 36 with a minute and a half to play, Wollett set up Stevenson for an open look jumpshot that would turn out to be the winning bucket. A half minute later, Wollett secured an offensive rebound and put it back up and score to give Susitna Valley a 40-36 lead. Wollett iced the win with another rebound and put back with 6 seconds to play giving the Rams a 42-36 victory and a 2011 Tri-Valley Championship.
Both teams employed a difficult to execute 1-3-1 defense, and the Rams were more comfortable running their offense against the uncommon defensive set. Sierra Pedersen hurt Nenana with three three pointers and 13 points, and Kat Wollett provided strong rebounding on both the offensive and defensive ends on route to 12 points. Bailey Stevenson contributed 11 points of her own. Pedersen, Stevenson and Wollett were named to the All-Tournament Team. The Lady Rams’ victory was their first in a bracketed tournament and a championship game in as many as twenty years. They finished second, with a one point loss in the championship game in the Invitational that they hosted last year.
The Gentlemen Rams were less successful this weekend, finishing fifth out of a field of six. They lost 44-41 to the West Valley JV squad, 43-37 to the host Viking Warriors and defeated Birchwood Christian 51-27 in the fifth place game. Dylan Figley and Elias Curtis were named to the All Tournament Team with 37 and 38 points respectively.
Tournament details for this story were provided by AlaskanAthlete.com.