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Toksook Bay Islanders, underdogs of the 2022 1A state basketball tournament, come out on top

Shane Iverson
Toksook Bay Islanders center Colton Angaiak, a senior, scored 11 points and pulled down 16 rebounds in the 1A state basketball championship game to help his team win the tournament.

The Toksook Bay Islanders are this year’s 1A state basketball champions. It was like the end to a feel-good movie. The Islanders were huge underdogs going into their final games of the state tournament. But against all odds, they won it all.

When the Islanders upset the second seeded Lumen Christi boys team in the March 18 semifinal match, Toksook Bay had already beaten expectations, going into the tournament as the number six seed.

But then in the March 19 championship game, the Islanders pulled off the impossible and took down the dominant number one seeded team, the Tanana Wolves. They used their speed and ball handling to match up against Tanana’s size. The final score was 51-47.

In the first quarter, the Tanana Wolves jumped out to an early 8-0 lead. But by halftime, Toksook Bay had cut that lead down to two. After several lead changes in the third quarter, Toksook was up by as many as 15 points at one point. At the very end, Tanana mounted a comeback, shooting themselves to within three points of Toksook Bay in the final minute. But the Islanders were able to hang on.

Toksook Bay point guard Abraham Julius, a senior, finished the game with 21 points, three steals, and six deflections. For his all around effort, he was awarded player of the game. Julius said that it took the Islanders’ best game they played this season to beat the formidable Tanana Wolves.

“They're a complete squad. But I don't know, their shots weren't going in like the previous games. And our shots were,” Julius said.

Center Colton Angaiak, another senior, added another 11 points and pulled down 16 rebounds. That was especially impressive because Angaiak was the only big man on the Islanders, battling three bigs on the opposing Wolves.

“It was more challenging,” Angaiak said. “A lot of big guys around me. Taller than me.”

Strategy wise, Toksook Bay coach Simeon Lincoln said that his team tried to take advantage of the fact that Tanana only had seven players.

“We saw how good they were, and we wanted them to get into foul trouble cause they had a limited number of players,” Lincoln said.

After a storybook ending to their tournament, Lincoln said that he told his team to enjoy the moment.

“Let's go home and celebrate. Let’s bring home the trophy. Let's go have fun. Let’s be happy,” Lincoln said.

Another team from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, the Scammon Bay Eagles, finished fifth in the state tournament. They fell to Lumen Christi 74-59 in their last game of the season. Players and coaches said that they were hungry to come back stronger next year.

Corrected: March 20, 2022 at 2:22 PM AKDT
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the St. Mary’s boys and girls teams placed third in the 1A state basketball tournament. That is incorrect. However, they did both win the consolation finals. It also incorrectly stated that Scammon Bay was part of the Lower Kuskokwim School District.
Greg Kim is a news reporter for KYUK covering environment, health, education, public safety, culture and subsistence. He's covered everything from Newtok's relocation due to climate change-fueled erosion to the Bethel chicken massacre of 2020.
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