Chalk this one up to purple pride.
Using equal parts heart, grit and determination, the Skyview boys withstood a late Wasilla rally to pull out a thrilling 54-52 Region III/4A win Saturday at Skyview over the visiting Warriors.
"The guys played with heart tonight," Panther head coach Dave Blossom said following the win, Skyview's first over a Mat-Su school in five years.
"They knew they had to gut it out to the very end, and they did."
Skyview pulled out the victory despite a final Wasilla possession that saw the Warriors get every possible chance to tie or pull ahead.
Things started to get interesting with 47 seconds left to play, after Wasilla's Ben Neher hit his sixth 3-point shot of the game to pull Wasilla within two. Warriors head coach Jason Marvel called a quick timeout to set up his defense.
On the ensuing inbounds play, Skyview's Ryan Gellar was unable to find an open teammate before five seconds elapsed, giving the ball back to Wasilla with plenty of time on the clock. The Warriors quickly got the ball inside to Matt Crane, who was fouled by Gellar on the pass.
Crane missed the front end of the bonus free throw, but after a wild scramble, Wasilla guard Robbie Champion emerged with the basketball. Wasilla was then able to set up Neher for a clean look at another 3, but his shot was just off the mark. However, the rebound went off Skyview, setting up Wasilla for another shot with 17 seconds left.
Instead of one last shot, the Warriors got three. First, Crane got a chance down low, but fired just long. Crane's rebound fell directly to teammate Weston Espinoza, who went up over a crowd of Skyview players to try and tie the game and missed again. Espinoza then got his own rebound, but was again unable to convert from close in.
Finally, Skyview's Kaleb Shields came away with the ball, sprinting towards midcourt as time expired to seal the win.
"We just had to make a stand as hard as we could, and we did," Gellar said in a jubilant Skyview locker room after the game. "It feels good."
Gellar finished the game with nine points and 10 rebounds for Skyview, which got solid efforts from every player who saw action Saturday. The Panthers were led by Cody Hatfield's 14 points, while Nathan Schmidt had 10 points and Zach Rowell added eight points and three steals.
Wasilla's Neher led all scorers with 24 points for Wasilla, while David Williams added 11 points and seven rebounds.
Missing two key starters because of injury, the Warriors appeared out-of-synch early on, as Skyview jumped out to a 12-2 lead to start the game. Despite having to play with a banged-up lineup, however, Marvel made no excuses for the loss.
"I guarantee if we would have had those two starters, they still would have beaten us," Marvel said. "They had more heart."
The Warriors showed they have the talent to dominate at times, reeling off 14 consecutive points to start the second half and grab the lead.
"When we play, we can really play," he said.
The win gives Skyview a much-needed boost heading into next week's showdown with Region III Southern Division rival Kenai. Blossom said the win shows the Panthers that they can compete with not only Kenai, but Region III's powerful Northern Division as well.
"We know in order for us to have a chance at regions, we have to be able to beat the Valley schools and Kodiak," he said.
As for next week's meeting with Kenai, Skyview appears poised to challenge the Kardinals for supremacy in the South, which is still wide-open as the season begins to wind down. According to Skyview senior guard Andrew Smith, who scored four points Saturday, the Kenai game could very well come down to a commodity the Panthers have shown they possess plenty of heart.
"Whoever shows up to play is going to win that game," Smith said.
SKYVIEW 54, WASILLA 52
Skyview 14 17 10 13 54
Wasilla 6 16 16 14 52
SKYVIEW (54) Smith 2 0-0 4, Shields 1 0-0 2, Rowell 4 0-1 8, St. Clair 0 0-0 0, Blossom 3 1-2 7, Schmidt 4 2-4 10, Hatfield 4 6-6 14, Gellar 3 3-4 9. Totals 21 12-17 54.
WASILLA (52) Hobbs 0 0-0 0, Champion 4 1-2 9, Neher 8 2-2 24, Espinoza 0 0-0 0, Crane 3 3-6 9, Williams 5 0-0 10. Totals 14 6-10 52.
3-point goals Wasilla 6 (Neher 6). Total fouls Skyview 13, Wasilla 15. Fouled out none.
Wasilla girls 92, Skyview 37
Chandice Cronk showed why she may very well be the state's top girls basketball player, leading the state's No. 1-ranked Wasilla Warriors to a 92-37 Region III/4A rout of the Skyview Panthers Saturday at Skyview.
Cronk poured in 22 of her game-high 26 points in the first half as the Warriors jumped out to a 58-18 lead at the half and never looked back.
"How Chandice goes, our team goes," Wasilla head coach Jeannie Hebert-Truax said following the game.
Cronk was unconscious in the first half, knocking down four 3-pointers and displaying a dazzling court awareness that left the Panthers reeling. The all-state senior guard also grabbed five first half steals and pulled down four rebounds to key the Warriors.
Following the game, Skyview head coach Wade Marcuson said the NCAA Division I U.C. Santa Clara-bound Cronk gave his team a fine lesson Saturday in the value of hard work.
"She's obviously in the gym all the time," Marcuson said. "We need to learn that if that's what your goals are, that's the effort you've got to put in."
For her part, Cronk said Saturday's one-sided affair was Wasilla's way of atoning for a near-loss in overtime Friday in Homer against the Mariners.
"We had to redeem ourselves from last night," Cronk said. "We couldn't do anything right (against Homer)."
Unfortunately for Skyview, Cronk said that after Friday's nail-biter, the Warriors felt like they needed to come out Saturday and turn up the intensity.
"We were really pumped up for this game," she said.
Cronk wasn't the only Warrior pumped up Saturday, as four Warriors finished in double figures, including Megan Stearman, who had 19 points, Laurel Creel, who added 13 and Lindsey Wesser, who netted 10.
The Panthers were led by senior guard Lindsay Gephardt's 12 points in the losing effort, while Skyview co-captains Amanda Fay and Sarah Garrant each added six.
WASILLA 92, SKYVIEW 37
Wasilla 34 24 16 24 92
Skyview 8 10 11 8 37
WASILLA (92) Brown 3 0-0 6, Bulawa 3 1-2 8, Cloud 2 0-0 5, Stearman 8 3-3 19, Cronk 11 1-2 26, Creel 5 2-4 13, Wesser 5 0-0 10, Brown 1 0-0 3, Viertel 1 0-0 2. Totals 39 7-11 92.
SKYVIEW (37) Heffner 0 2-5 2, Gephardt 5 1-3 12, Al. Fay 0 0-0 0, Dalebout 1 1-2 3, Bonebrake 1 1-2 3, Dreifurst 1 0-0 2, Blake 0 3-4 3, Smith 0 0-0 0, Garrant 3 0-0 6, Am. Fay 3 0-0 6, St. Clair 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 8-16 37.
3-point goals Wasilla 6 (Cronk 3, Creel, Brown, Cloud), Skyview 1 (Gephardt). Total fouls Wasilla 16, Skyview 14. Fouled out none.
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