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Seward boys come up short in state semis

Posted: Saturday, March 21, 2009

A 1992 graduate of Seward High School, Patrick Callahan sat in the stands during the 1993 Class 3A state championship game and watched the Seahawks blow a late lead, 19 or 20 points as he recalled it, in falling by one to Eielson.

That was the last time Seward reached the title game.

On Friday night, Callahan again stood by as his school squandered a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of a Class 3A state semifinal contest.

This time around, though, he was coaching Nome, and his Nanooks held on.

Leading by 18 with two minutes to play in the third quarter, Nome surrendered an unearthly 19-0 run to Seward before weathering the furious storm and holding on for a wild 52-50 win in advancing to today's championship game at Sullivan Arena.

"I kind of was looking out there today and thinking, 'Maybe this is the payback game for that when Seward lost that,'" Callahan said. "I'm proud of our guys for playing through it and getting her done."

Senior Robert Perea scored a game-high 18 points, 12 coming on that improbable run, and senior Dylan Beck added 12 for the Seahawks, who had two shots at tying the game before the buzzer sounded.

"We showed pretty good character most of the season. I am super, super proud of them, and I told them that afterward," said Seward coach Dan Krier. "I'm sure they're all feeling it in their gut right now. There was a lot tears in that locker room today because those seniors, and I really feel for them, those seniors, they were really goal-oriented and they wanted it pretty bad.

"We were down 18, we could have laid over and died," he added. "But we showed a lot of character and battled back and I'm super proud of them."

Trailing by 18 with 2:01 to play in the third, finishing the game seemed a mere formality.

Right?

Wrong.

Perea and Peter Fleming began the monumental comeback with a pair of buckets that sent the Seahawks into the fourth down 43-29. At that time it seemed to just keep the game respectable. In the end, though, those two shots meant a whole lot more.

"That was a momentum swinger, I thought," Krier said. "And I told them that when they came to the huddle at the end of the third quarter. I said, 'Hey, that was a great last minute-and-a-half, two minutes of that quarter.' And I said, 'You can play the whole fourth quarter that way. Put your mind to it.' And they responded."

To the surprise of almost everybody watching.

Perea again jump-started the campaign with a put-back and a pull-up 3 and Travis Price bookended another follow-up from Perea with a pair of fast-break layups created off turnovers in making it a three-point game.

Coming out of a timeout, sophomore Andrew Buchanan brought his team within one on a baseline jumper and Beck capped the ridiculous and unheard of 19-0 stretch with a bucket that handed the Seahawks their first lead of the game with 4:26 left in the contest.

"That's probably the third or fourth time we've done that this season. And so they know what they're capable of doing," Krier said.

Nome, which hadn't scored in more than six minutes, snatched the lead right back on a slicing drive by senior Jesse Blandford. Following a free throw from Jeremy Head that gave the Nanooks a precarious two-point lead, Perea took a pass at the top of the arc and didn't hesitate in launching a 3 that again put Seward in front 47-46.

But Blandford sank a pair of free throws and Head added the first of his two for a 49-47 lead. The second miss, however, was all but in the Seahawks' grasp before it squirted into the hands of Derek Weiler, who couldn't have delivered his only two points of the game in a more timely manner.

Not about to let this comeback go for naught, Buchanan calmly canned a trey from the corner with 19 seconds to play in cutting it to 51-50.

Another free throw then made it a two-point game before Price's attempted tying shot rimmed out and Perea's follow came up short in ending what could have been one for the record books.

"I told them at halftime, I said, 'We need to get some defensive stops, get some spurts. I want you to go out and win the third quarter. I want you to go out and win the fourth quarter and then we'll see where it falls,'" Krier said. "We got moving a little bit better in the second half and I think our defense picked that up for us. Things happened for us."

Seward, which shot 45.1 percent (23-of-51) to Nome's 45.2 percent (19-of-42), fell behind 4-0 and 6-2 before storming back to knot it at 8 behind six straight points from Beck. But the Nanooks carried a 12-8 lead in the second after closing the frame with a strong layup by Head and a buzzer-beating follow-up by Christian Leckband.

But the Seahawks, who didn't shoot a single free throw, charged out of the gate in the second on a 4-0 spurt in tying it at 12 only 1:04 into the quarter. Seward, down by one, seemed primed to take their first lead of the game when Beck broke in all alone and attempted a dunk, but was denied by the rim.

The Nanooks weren't about to let it go unnoticed, either, stringing together a quarter-closing 11-4 run, including a pair of 3s, in charging into the locker room with a commanding 24-16 lead.

It only got worse in the third as Nome couldn't miss.

The Nanooks hit six of their first eight shots, 10 points coming from Blandford, in opening up a 38-23 lead halfway through the quarter. After a bucket from Beck temporarily quelled the run, Nome converted three steals into four more points, both buckets and a pair of thefts courtesy of Wongittilin, in ballooning the margin to 18.

"I thought the real key of the ballgame today was that we let them drive the lane too much in the first half and I really think that was the difference in the game," Krier said. "If we'd have played a little bit better defense in the first half we'd have come on the good end of that score. But unfortunately, we did not."

The Seahawks will try and earn the program's highest finish since taking second in 1993 when they play Petersburg in today's 10:40 a.m. third-place contest.

"We said, 'We want that third-place trophy and what we want to do that tomorrow is have that old Seahawk pride kick in,'" Krier said of an earlier talk with his players. "That's what we're playing for now."

Friday boys

Nanooks 52, Seahawks 50

Seward          8       8       13      21      -50

Nome            12      12      19      9       -52

SEWARD (50) - Prochazka 1 0-0 2, Price 3 0-0 6, Beck 6 0-0 12, Thorn 0 0-0 0, Pullins 1 0-0 2, Perea 8 0-0 18, Buchanan 3 0-0 8, Olsen 0 0-0 0, Fleming 1 0-0 2. Totals - 23 0-0 50.

NOME (52) - J. Wongittilin 2 0-0 4, Leckband 4 1-2 9, Stickel 0 0-0 0, Head 5 5-10 15, Blandford 6 2-2 17, Evans 1 2-2 5, Weiler 1 0-0 2, M. Wongittilin 0 0-1 0. Totals - 19 10-17 52.

3-point goals - Seward 4 (Perea 2, Buchanan 2), Nome 4 (Blandford 3, Evans 1). Team fouls - Seward 19, Nome 7. Fouled out - Prochazka.



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