FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) The high school basketball season is heating up, with Mid Alaska Conference play opening up on Tuesday with the North Pole Patriots hosting the Lathrop Malemutes for a double-header.
The Malemutes returned to Alaska after going 2-1 in the Clark Cochrane Christmas Classic in Ketchikan nearly two weeks ago. Lathrop proved they were prepared for conference action right out of the gates, defeating the Patriots 83-13 in North Pole. It was a track meet for the Malemutes, who dizzily ran up and down the floor, creating turnovers and turning them into points on the other end.
"Coach just fired us up before the game and we just came in and wanted to win," Lathrop sophomore Tyriq Luke said, who dropped a game-high 29 points. "He just tells us to stay hungry. We had a tough loss to West Anchorage and he just makes that fuel us."
After allowing nine points in the opening quarter, the Malemutes clamped down on the Patriots, only giving up four points in the final three frames. Eleven different Malemutes scored, including senior Mekhi Briggman, who provided 13 points in the 70-point victory. North Pole's Adam Selid led the Patriots with four points. A strong performance from the Malemutes, who start MAC play 1-0. They will have time off until they host the Joe T. Classic January 16-18. The co-ed tournament will feature the Monroe Catholic Rams, the Sitka Wolves, the Barrow Whalers and the host Malemtues.
A similar story line in the girl's game, which tipped-off after the boy's victory. Lathrop's suffocating defense made it hard for the Patriots to get buckets, and the steals led to easy transition layups in a 70-21 victory for the Malemutes.
"It's great, we play as a team, we play defense as a team, and our defense turns into a team offense, which carries our win," Senior Ella Roberts said after the win. "We work really hard on our defense every day in practice."
Roberts anchored the Malemutes in her return to action, posting a game-high 22 points. Roberts has missed the last three games due to an injury she suffered the first game of the season.
"It feels great, I was excited the whole time," she said about getting back on the court. "I didn't get to play in Vegas (Gator Winter Classic), which sucked, but coming in I was excited for this game and it showed."
Freshman TT Tagovailoa chipped in 10 points along with several steals on the defensive end. Alicia Guzman had eight points for North Pole, while Claire Richmond added six.
The Lathrop girls will be one of 10 teams playing in the Ice Jam tournament hosted by West Valley. The ACS Lions dropped out, and Lathrop will play in their opening game to help fill that role. They will tip-off against the Bartlett Golden Bears on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Monroe will take the second game on Friday at 3 p.m., while the Hutchison Hawks will step in the 7th/8th place game on Saturday at 10 a.m.