Senior Abigail Brown goes to the hoop in the first half against Ketchikan in Friday night's championship game. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

KETCHIKAN, Alaska — Leading by three points with 9 seconds left, Philomath High’s girls basketball team appeared to be closing in on a hard-fought victory over the host school on Friday night in the championship game of the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic.

Ketchikan senior Abbie Davies, who had hit four 3-pointers earlier in the game, dribbled toward the left and launched a trey toward the basket that missed. The official blew his whistle, however, and tagged Philomath with a foul. Davies was awarded three foul shots, sank them all and forced the game into overtime.

During the extra four minutes, Ketchikan’s jump shot and a couple of free throws was enough to snag the first-place trophy from the Warriors with a 42-40 victory.

“You always want to win but there’s still a lot we can learn from it,” PHS coach Ben Silva said. “We made a few mistakes down the stretch that we could cleanup and hopefully we learn from that and the next time we can come out on top in close games like that.”

Silva fits the persona of most coaches with wanting to use the game as a learning experience that can produce positive results in the remaining weeks of the season. Still, it would’ve been nice to win the tournament’s title. Entering overtime, Silva wanted his team to just continue what they had been doing.

“We had been down and we battled back,” he said. “Our press was also giving them trouble so we wanted to stick with that. And then just be solid on the defensive end and get some good looks.”

PHS freshman Emily Taunisila pulls up for a jumpshot. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath (5-5) went up 40-38 within the first 30 seconds of the OT on freshman Emily Taunisila’s drive to the hoop. Kayhi, which is how the school most often refers to itself, didn’t allow a point the rest of the way, got a jump shot with 2:38 left and then added a couple of free throws — all of those points by senior Lindsay Byron — to get the victory.

“We thought even though they had size to compete inside, we still wanted to continue getting the ball inside,” Silva said about his approach to the overtime. “It was just a little bit tougher against their pressure.”

Playing in the championship game before a loud crowd on homecoming night against the host school, the Warriors picked up experience on how to perform in high-pressure situations.

“We won’t see a crowd and atmosphere like that again unless we’re playing in mid-March, which is where we want to be,” Silva said. “So this was a great experience to be able to come up here and play the home team in the championship game.”

Senior Ingrid Hellesto looks to pass to senior Abigail Brown in the first half against Ketchikan. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The game had been close throughout with no team leading by any more than six points. The Warriors led 10-7 after the first quarter. Senior Abigail Brown had a couple of baskets and Taunisila buried a 3-pointer during the opening eight minutes.

Kayhi (3-0) stayed close in the second quarter on the strength of its 3-point shooting. But Philomath hit a 3-pointer of its own on a Taunisila shot with 3 seconds left to take a 21-18 lead in at the half.

Philomath’s toughest stretch of the game unfolded in the third quarter with Kayhi coming out with an intense pressure defense. The Warriors scored just four points in the frame — both on Brown baskets with 7:40 and 4:21 left in the quarter.

“We got a little frazzled there for a stretch when we had our primary point guard out getting a breather … struggled a little bit and turned it over too much,” Silva said. “We’re still improving with where we’re at in regards to turnovers. That’s a tough, physical team and we didn’t turn it over quite as much as we had early on in the year.”

The Kings took the lead on back-to-back 3-pointers 11 seconds apart by Davies but still only led by five points going into the fourth.

Sophomore Anneka Steen goes up for a shot. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Warriors settled down in the fourth and regained the lead 33-32 with 1:50 remaining on an Anneka Steen drive to the hoop. But Ketchikan countered and took the lead back on free throws.

Down by two points, Philomath got back to within one on an Ahnika Tryon free throw with 48 seconds remaining. The Warriors then took the lead, 36-35, on a clutch basket by Ingrid Hellesto with 26 seconds left.

Philomath then made a big play on defense with Brown blocking a Kayhi shot with 13 seconds left. The Kings were forced to foul and sent Steen to the free-throw line. She made both for a 38-35 Warriors lead with 9 seconds left.

The foul on a 3-point shot followed on the other end of the floor, which led to the game-tying free throws and overtime.

Brown finished with a team-high 14 points while Steen scored nine and Taunisila added eight. All three of those players were named to the all-tournament team.

Davies scored 17 and Bryon had 17 for the Kings.

The Warriors will not take the court again until Jan. 10 for a nonconference road game at Estacada.

The Philomath High girls basketball team with the tournament runner-up plaque. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.