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Vikings take crown at Regionals, ready for State


james poulson / Sitka Sentinel

Head coach Rick Brock (center) giving some inspiration to his team during the Vikings' championship victory over the Metlakatla Chiefs on Friday, March 11.

The Petersburg High School boys basketball team won two games last weekend in Sitka to bring home the 2A Region V title. Head coach Rick Brock said the entire team played well and are looking forward to taking the court at State this weekend in Anchorage.

On Thursday, the boys met up with the Craig Panthers. The two teams had faced off in Petersburg the previous weekend in the regular season finale.

"It was a good game to start the tournament," Brock said. "The nice thing about Thursday's game, and this has been true for us for awhile now, is that we are really getting balanced scoring."

The tone for the game was pretty much set right from the opening tip. After Petersburg won the tip, senior Kjell Wittstock scored a basket, getting fouled in the process. Wittstock would convert his attempt from the free-throw line giving Petersburg a 3-0 lead only four seconds into the game.

Craig tried to battle back after the Vikings jumped out to a 21-7 first quarter lead, but the effort of the Vikings proved a high hill to climb creating a 44-18 halftime lead. Six players for the Vikings scored in the first half, including 3-pointers from Wittstock, Alan McCay and Jordan Lapeyri.

Craig had a good showing coming out of the locker room, scoring 17 points in the third quarter and adding 13 in the fourth. However, the solid team play and quick start of the Vikings helped them capture a convincing victory, 69-48.

Stewart Conn led the charge with a game-high 22, Wittstock and Lapeyri both chipped in 10 points, and McCay added nine. The Vikings had nine players score points and that is exactly what coach Brock likes.

On Friday, the boys came up against the Metlakatla Chiefs, a team that had coach Brock's attention going into the tournament. The Chiefs played tough and the game came down to the final minutes and crucial baskets.

"That was a hard fought game from beginning to end. We were down one point at the end of the first quarter and ahead two at halftime," Brock said.

Going into the fourth quarter the score was tight with Petersburg up 38-30. Metlakatla quickly cut it to a two possession game where it stayed for much of the final period. More than once, the Vikings made a mistake or missed a free-throw, allowing the Chiefs to cut the lead to a one possession game.

"Even though we were making mistakes down the stretch, which you hope not to, we were able to hold our lead and score in critical times," Brock said.

In the end, the team came together. Conn kept attacking the basket to either take a shot or find open teammates in scoring position. Blaine Volk hit a huge 3-pointer in the final minutes, and Mark Neidiffer made two free-throws with less than 30 seconds left to help secure the championship, 54-49.

Conn had 25 big points and helped keep Danny Mardsen, one the Chiefs best players, in check defensively. Wittstock and Volk put in seven each, and Lapeyri and Neidiffer added five apiece.

Brock credits the victory to tough defense during the second and third quarter, good team passing, and strong post and guard play. Many players have raised their level of play during the final weeks of the season, and Wittstock is playing with great rhythm and had a fantastic tournament, according to Brock.

Wittstock's skills go beyond facilitating offensively for the Vikings, and his defense shone when the team really needed stops. He took a tough defensive assignment against Metlakatla's Trenton Clark, who hit six 3-pointers the previous game against Wrangell. Wittstock guarded Clark for most of the game helping the Vikings halt his hot play while keeping him to only a total of six points.

The senior leader also went 24-for-25 from the free-throw line and won the boys all-around free-throw championship during the skills contest at Regionals. Wittstock bested shooters from 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A teams. Brock could not remember the last time a Petersburg player won the honor, but he said Wittstock's mother, Bridget, was crowned free-throw champion when she played basketball in high school.

Wittstock also received all-academic honors, along with fellow seniors Lapeyri, Ben Johnson and Ethan Bryner. Lapeyri and McCay were honored with the sportsmanship awards. Conn, Brooks and McCay also earned all-conference team selections.

The Vikings will take on the Bristol Bay Angels, a team with a strong basketball tradition, in the first round of the tournament this weekend.


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