FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Lathrop Malemutes head coach Matt Wilken said the West Anchorage Eagles looked like a football team while warming up, with their towering size and strength. However, Lathrop never backed down, and fought for all four quarters of the Clark Cochrane Christmas Classic opener Friday night. One bounce of the basketball was the difference, as Lathrop fell 51-50 to their 4A foe.
Trailing by one point on the final possession, Lathrop senior Jhon Rones attacked the basket and was fouled with two seconds remaining on the clock, sending him to the free throw line with a chance to win or tie the ball game. Rones came up empty on his trip to the charity stripe, but the offensive rebound landed in his lap. In a last second effort, Rones threw up a shot at the basket, where the ball circled around the rim before dropping out of the cylinder, suffering a one-point loss.
"This a good example of why you need to take free throws seriously in practice," Wilken said over the phone after the game. "I like the way they handled the spurts of adversity that we had against a big Anchorage team."
Rones finished with 12 points while Ben Kraska led all scorers with 15 for Lathrop.
"With the youth on this team, it's being smart with the ball, minimizing turn overs and executing," Wilken added. "I've got a lot of kids where it's my first or second year with them, and I think if we can get good execution, we should have a good shot."
Lathrop moves to the consolation bracket, where they will face the Sitka Wolves at 10:45 a.m. on Saturday.