Monroe Boys, West Valley Girls capture Holiday Classic Titles

Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 7:45 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The 12th annual Mt. McKinley Bank Holiday Classic, hosted by Monroe Catholic High School, went as successful as a tournament can at this time. With masks, limited attendance and contingency plans in place, six local programs and two from out-of-town spent three days at Boileau Hall for round robin action, concluding Saturday, where champions were crowned.

Monroe Boys Protect Home Court

After the dust settled on two days of competition, the boy’s championship match was set between the undefeated West Valley Wolfpack and the undefeated Monroe Catholic Rams. This one lived up to the hype and can easily be considered the game of the year for the young high school basketball season.

With the shortest player in the starting lineup listed at 6′1″, West Valley has given opponents fits with their length and athleticism, doing so again in Saturday’s championship bout.

After trading buckets early, Monroe’s Quinn McHenry finished a fast break layup to trim the deficit to 19-16 halfway through the second quarter. That was the final points for the Rams in the half, as the Wolfpack turned defense into offense on a 12-2 run that spilled over into the third quarter.

Trailing 13 points with just 13 total minutes of game to go, Rams senior Jase McCullough attacked the rim and completed the basket, igniting a run of their own. With limited fans backing the Rams, Monroe held West Valley to just one point the rest of the quarter on defense, while filling up the bucket on offense, and it was just a three-point ball game, 35-32, with one quarter remaining.

West Valley held a lead for 30 minutes and 38 seconds of the possible 32 minutes of action, but the only thing that matters is whose leading when the clock hits triple zeroes. McHenry nailed a corner three with 1:22 remaining to give Monroe their first lead of the game, 49-48. On the ensuing possession, McCullough stood firm in the paint, drawing a charge to give ball back to the Rams. With the score and the clock on their side, Monroe played keep away from the Wolfpack, until West Valley had little choice but to intentionally foul with 30 seconds remaining, sending McCullough to the line. Calm, cool and collected, the senior floor general drilled both free throws to extend the lead to three points. With the clock winding down, West Valley’s Cortarius Mingo launched a three-pointer wide right, resulting in a scramble for the rebound, where a jump ball was eventually called with just three ticks to go. With the possession remaining with the Wolfpack, head coach Colton Growden called a timeout to draw up a play for the best shot possible. Underneath the hoop, the ball was inbounded to Mingo at the top of the key, where he got a decent look from about six feet from behind the arc, but it fell just short, and Monroe captured the Mt. McKinely Bank Holiday Classic Championship with a 51-48 victory.

After a first half that did not live up to Monroe’s standards, head coach Frank Ostanik made note of some changes in the halftime locker room.

“Our mentality wasn’t right coming into this game, but we fixed that and turned it around,” said senior Tommy Bast, who had nine in the championship game. “Coach O [Ostanik] really got into us and set us straight.”

Coming out of halftime, the Rams found their identity.

“By the end of the game I think we all figured out who we are and just stuck with it,” said McHenry.

While three Monroe seniors received All-tournament nods, sophomore Malachi Bradley continued to display his progression with a strong performance in the tournament.

“I feel like I have gotten a lot better since freshman year, I have been in the lab all summer just working,” said Bradley, who was an Aurora All-Conference member his freshman season.

While McCullough was tabbed the MVP of the Mt. McKinley Bank Holiday Classic, just as his brother Jalon was in 2015, he gave props to his teammates for the victory.

“We all stayed together throughout the whole way and obviously Quinn hit a very big shot in the corner to put us up one, so I just tip my hat to them,” added McCullough.

Three members of West Valley reached double-figures with Tyriq Luke (17 points), Judah Ward (12) and Cortarius Mingo (11) leading the way offensively.

Boys All-Tournament Members

Jase McCullough - Monroe (MVP

Tommy Bast - Monroe

Malachi Bradley - Monroe

Quinn McHenry - Monroe

Tyriq Luke - West Valley

Stewart Erhart - West Valley

Cortarius Mingo - West Valley

Ben Kraska - Lathrop

Luke Lenfert - Grace Christian

West Valley Girls Remain Undefeated

In their first action of the year, the West Valley girls picked up right where they left off last season. With an average win margin of 20.3 points, the Wolfpack went 3-0 at the Holiday Classic, concluding with a 53-34 win over the host Rams. Ali May anchored the offense with 16 points, while Rachel Cockman added 15, both All-Tournament members. Joining May and Cockman on the list, junior Kadence Brinkman and senior Hadley Blasey, with head coach Milo Griffin holding down the sidelines.

“Our offense was good, we have been working on it a lot in practice, so that really helped us through the tournament,” said Blasey.

Setting the tone early, the Wolfpack look to carry this momentum into the rest of the year.

“It is really important, it really helps our confidence and makes us play better.” added Blasey.

Girls All-Tournament Members

Rachel Cockman (MVP) - West Valley

Hadley Blasey - West Valley

Kadence Brinkman - West Valley

Ali May - West Valley

TT Tagovailoa - Lathrop

Tristian Martin - Lathrop

Katie Bast - Monroe

Shelby Eidenmiller - Monroe

Tessa Binder - Grace Christian

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