Lady Angels claim 2A state title
ANCHORAGE - During a timeout late in the third quarter of Saturday's Class 2A state championship game, Anna Hansen looked down the bench and saw a team facing adversity. Rylie Lyon, the Class 2A Player of the Year, was battling cold-like symptoms that left her vomiting into a trash can, and her sister, Sharon, was sitting on the bench with four fouls.
Someone, she told herself, had to step up.
That someone was her.
The Bristol Bay senior helped the Lady Angels weather the storm by pulling down several clutch rebounds and pushing in a pair of key baskets that went a long way in helping Bristol Bay fend off a strong challenge from Nenana en route to claiming the 2017 state championship with a 40-34 decision in front of a large crowd in the Alaska Airlines Center.
"Personally, I knew Rylie wasn't feeling well and then my sister got four fouls and that sparked me to push even harder," said Hansen. "We needed someone to step up, and I think we (she and her other teammates) all did."
With the victory, Bristol Bay ended a 12-year title drought. Prior to their win over Nenana, the Lady Angels' last championship came in 2005.
"This is great," said Lyon, who had been battling cold-like symptoms for days. "It feels so great to finish with a win in the championship game. For us, as seniors, this was our goal."
Bristol Bay looked as if it would run away with the title early on. The Lady Angels scored the first three baskets of the game and breezed to a quick 6-0 lead before Zenana managed to get going.
The Hansen sisters got the ball rolling for the Lady Angels. They combined for a pair of baskets in the first minute of play, and then watched on as Denali Moorcroft pushed back an offensive rebound to stake the BBHS girls to a 6-0 lead.
Nenana fought its way to within 8-5 over the ensuing 4 minutes before Anna and Lyon both pushed in shots and staked the Lady Angels to a 14-7 cushion.
Nenana's Michelle Dela Rosa buried a three-pointer late in the first quarter to pull the Lynx to within four, at 14-10, heading into the second.
Nenana continued to chip away at Bristol Bay's lead in the second. The Lynx reeled off a 7-5 clip in the first 4:06 of the frame and cut the Lady Angels' lead to 19-17.
Sharon Hansen breathed new life into the BBHS offense with 1:57 left in the period. She stretched the team's lead to six, at 26-20, by pulling up and draining a three-point bomb from the top of the key.
The Lynx finished the quarter with a 4-0 run and went into the half trailing 26-24.
Bristol Bay's defense gave the Lady Angels the upper hand with a smothering effort in the third quarter. Utilizing a man-to-man defense, the BBHS girls held Nenana to just a pair of free throws in the initial eight minutes of the second half.
"They (Nenana) have a good team," said Bristol Bay head coach Heath Lyon. "We had been showing only our press and diamond defense all year. I knew we had a good man (defense), but we didn't show it until tonight. We came out using that, and in the second half, we did a lot better with it."
So much so, in fact, the team built an 11-point lead, at 35-24, before Hansen was whistled for her fourth foul and sent to the bench.
Hansen, who finished the game with 13 points and five rebounds, ignited the Lady Angels' 9-2 run in the third by picking off an errant Lynx pass and racing the length of the court for a layup. Moments later, Anna Hansen wrapped a pair of baskets around a three-point shot to cap a 9-0 spree.
Raquell Salas notched Nenana's lone points of the third with a pair of free throws with 3 seconds left in the frame.
Even with the lead, Lyon said his team faced some big hurdles. Between the quarters, Sharon Hanson was on the bench with four fouls and Rylie Lyon looked unsteady as she puked into a small trash can.
Lyon finished the game with just nine points, about half of her season average.
"I've been really sick the last few days," she said. "I wouldn't have been able to make it all four quarters if it weren't for my teammates. I really owe it (the win) all to them."
The Lynx opened the fourth with a flurry. Nenana scored the first six points of the period and fought its way to within three, at 35-32.
The Lady Angels managed to batten down the hatches from there. Armed with a stall game that ran precious minutes off the clock - and allowed Sharon Hansen to work her way back into the contest — the BBHS girls held the Lynx to just 2 points in the final 5:40 of the game.
Moorcroft sealed the victory 3:47 left in regulation by sinking a three-pointer from the left wing.
Moorcroft finished the game with eight points. Anna Hansen also noted eight points along with a team-high nine rebounds.
With the win, Bristol Bay finished the season at 24-1 and washed away the sour memories of last season's second-place finish.
"Coming short nine points short last year really made us push it harder this year," said Rylie Lyon. "We got the younger girls in the gym right away in the off-season and put a lot of time in after the season."
The Lady Angels earned their way into the championship game by grinding out a tough 43-39 victory over Glennallen in the semifinal round on Friday. The BBHS girls raced to a 26-15 lead in the first half and then held off a furious second-half push from Glennallen to notch the win.
Lyon led all Bristol bay scorers with 15 points. Anna Hansen also played well, finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds and four steals.
Sharon Hansen pitched in 15 points and seven rebounds.
Bristol Bay kicked off the tournament with a 73-30 decision over Chevak on Thursday. Anna and Sharon Hansen led the BBHS assault. Both scored 22 points in the contest. Lyon and Moorcroft added 12 and 11, respectively.